Charles Williams wants his money.
In June, Williams, 70, and his wife found out the gift cards they've been sending to their granddaughter in New Port Richey never arrived.
They felt awful for their granddaughter, who thought they didn't send her anything for her birthday and holidays. They think, over the past year and a half, they sent at least two gift cards from stores worth at least $100 — if not more.
They called the U.S. Postal Service and found out what happened:
A mail carrier in New Port Richey was stealing gift cards from the mail he was supposed to deliver, according to Sam Montalvo, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Postal Service's Office of Inspector General in Miami. That is the law enforcement agency within the Postal Service that focuses on investigating crimes by employees.
Montalvo said the case began with people calling and saying their gift cards never arrived. The case was investigated from May 26 until June 14, when the employee was allegedly caught. Montalvo would not reveal the suspect's name because the man has not yet been charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
He said the individual is accused of stealing $700 worth of gift cards from the mail. He said the man worked for the Postal Service for two years. The employee confessed to the crime and was fired, Montalvo said.
As far as the delay in charging him, Montalvo said the "agents would prefer to arrest him then and there" when the man confessed. But he said the decision rests with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"It's their case," he said. "We are at their mercy."
The U.S. Attorney's Office did not immediately respond for a comment Friday.
Montalvo said the suspect is responsible for paying money back to the victims. But that would only happen after the case is finished in court, which could be some time.
Williams, who lives in Palm Coast, said he spoke with someone at the U.S. Postal Service who promised restitution to him within weeks. As the time has passed with no money and no information on the case, he's become increasingly angry.
"A promise is a promise," he said. He said he wants people to know about this case as the holiday season approaches and more people are sending gift cards in the mail. Montalvo said people shouldn't fear sending them in the mail — but to call the Postal Service immediately if any thefts are suspected. The hotline number is 1-888-877-7644. You can also submit tips online by going to www.uspsoig.gov and clicking on the "hotline" tab.
Williams called the ordeal a "terrible shame."
"It's dishonorable behavior," Williams said. "We need to catch thieves if they are at the post office and successfully robbing people."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.