'Tis the Season to Pilfer Gifts?
At this joyous time of year, it warms the cockles of your heart to read inspirational stories about those who have given of themselves so that others who are not as fortunate may bear a lesser burden. In the words of the mighty Charles Dickens, it is a time of year when “want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices.”
Then there are people who are selfish and heartless the year-round, and this month we bring forth several such examples of the lessor among us. It involves three U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employees, some or all of which are no longer under Mr. ZIP’s employ. And we must point out that their activities are in no way a reflection upon the USPS.
Mahogany Strickland pulled off some mildly despicable crimes that came at the expense of children in need of Yuletide cheer. Strickland, 23, and a couple of cohorts helped themselves to laptop computers, iPads, clothes and other gifts under the guise of the Operation Santa program.
Strickland, along with co-defendants Terry Jackson and Nickyeves Saintalbord, posed as underprivileged kids while writing “Dear Santa” letters, requesting electronics and clothing, among other items. The trio included their own addresses, so that unsuspecting benefactors would send the crooks the goods directly.
They would also bamboozle the system by swapping out addresses of actual needy families with their own for gifts that had already been donated. Jackson allegedly had 50 packages rerouted to his home address. Speaking of which, Strickland’s Manhattan residence coincidentally is located on St. Nicholas Avenue.
That the trio were employed by the USPS and working on Operation Santa makes the crimes more egregious. Strickland sometimes manned the Operation Santa table at the James A. Farley Post Office in Manhattan, where she placed the letters contrived by her and her accomplices at the top of the pile, the New York Post reported, citing court papers. She sometimes personally handed the phony letters to donors who wanted children’s requests for Christmas presents.
The scam unraveled when two of the gifts self-addressed to Strickland’s home came back to the post office. According to the paper, a warrant revealed the purloined gifts contained clothes, boots and a toy train.
A toy train! The very thought conjurs up visions of the Grinch steering some poor Whoville child’s train into a sack en route to robbing the entire village of its Christmas gifts. At least the Grinch finally learned the true meaning of Christmas and gave the gifts back.
That’s not the case for Strickland, who was charged in June and later fired by USPS. She pleaded guilty in late October to misdemeanor charges of carrying letters fraudulently in order to obtain property. With the plea, prosecutors dropped the more damaging federal charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and receipt of stolen mail, which very well could have resulted in a 20-year prison stretch. Instead, she will face just 30 days in the can at February’s sentencing.
The guess here is that Ms. Strickland will receive community service…ideally not involved with gift-giving charities.
And To All A Good Night: OK, we can’t end the final column of 2015 on a sour note.
We spend a lot of time fixated on the things that go wrong in life. A bunch of small issues unrelated to one another crop up in succession, and we begin to think that forces are aligning to conspire against us. Quite often, these challenges are only temporary and, in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal. But in the moment, they tick you off to no end. This fits yours truly to a T.
It’s so easy to lose sight of what’s important when you become immersed in the concerns of the day. No one schedules a roadside stop to lay down in a dandelion field. It’s hard to slow the moment down when it seems like time is not your friend.
But I know I can do better. I resolve in 2016 to show more appreciation for the many reasons I have to be thankful. And I hope that the New Year provides you and yours all the good health and happiness life has to offer. In the end, isn’t that really all that matters? PI