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Watchdog: Follow the Money

Postal service employees use travel cards to gamble, pay bills and go bowling

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Travel,Watchdog,Michal Conger,Inspectors General,Waste and Fraud,Follow the Money,Credit Cards,USPS,FOIA

Postal employees have spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on gambling, bills and other personal expenses, according to a series of reports by the U.S. Postal Service inspector general.

Federal employees may use government credit cards for official travel expenses, but some used theirs to withdraw cash before hitting casinos.

Nearly a dozen reports on closed travel card theft investigations were obtained by the Washington Examiner in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

One manager, who was not identified in the report, used her travel card to withdraw $32,000 in cash so she could gamble, according to the inspector general.

The woman told investigators that it was "difficult to say" why she used the government card, but indicated the withdrawals were made after she reached her credit limit on her personal cards.

The manager also used her government card on rental cars, gas, parking and tolls for personal use, and said a fast-lane transponder "fell into her purse" out of a USPS car she was driving.

The same manager's administrative assistant told investigators she was frequently out of the office, didn't say where she would be and was difficult to reach when she was away.

The assistant was also put in "an awkward position" by being made to drive the manager to pick up rental cars for personal use, the assistant said.

Between cash advances for gambling, rental cars and other personal expenses, the manager spent $45,000, which she had paid back by February 2010.

She was also paid for 58 official days during which she was off work or did personal business, including sick days and dependent care sick days, which she wasn't eligible for. She raked in a total of $24,000 for those paid days.

The manager "said she does not have a regular work schedule in her mind, because she works all the time, including weekends,” the IG said.

The day investigators came to interview her, the manager had requested sick leave and was absent. She was served with a letter demanding she repay the remaining money she owed and took an "early retirement," according to a USPS spokeswoman.

Another employee used her government card for casinos, taking out $2,400 in cash for gambling. She initially told investigators she used the government card because it looked like her personal credit card, but later admitted she used it intentionally.

The employee "explained that she needed the money to go to the casino and she goes to the casino too much," the report said.

The employee had a $1,300 balance left on her card at the time of her interview, and had paid off the rest of the balance by the following week. She was fired for inappropriate travel card use in November.

Other employees took cash and salary advances to pay bills and other personal expenses. One employee paid herself $8,500 in salary and travel advances during one three-month stint as the officer in charge at a North Carolina post office, then lied about paying them back.

The employee told investigators she gave herself the first advance so she could fix her truck while waiting for travel reimbursement.

For each of the three salary advances and six travel advances, the employee either issued them to herself or had another employee issue them.

She told investigators she sent an email to a supervisor informing him she would be issuing herself an advance unless she heard back from him, which she didn't.

The employee also said repeatedly that she had paid back the advances until investigators told her they would be reviewing her bank records for the payments, at which point she said "honesty is the best policy" and admitted to using bad checks for repayments.

She resigned in February 2013, and a month later was issued a letter demanding she repay the money she owed USPS.

In another case, a sales service associate who hadn't traveled for work for several years used his travel card for almost $1,700 in personal cash advances, food and personal hotel stays, even after being warned by a manager not to do so.

The employee said he had taken his family to a hotel when their home's air conditioning was broken and "accidentally" used his government card, which he never turned in after being transferred to a nontravel position. He also "accidentally" let his son use the card to go bowling several times, he told investigators.

The employee also said and his wife were going through a divorce, which, combined with reduced hours, was a financial strain, and he didn't tell his manager about the charges.

He canceled the card and had almost finished paying it off by the time of the investigation in March 2013.

Two other employees took cash advances, one of about $1,000 and one of an unspecified amount, to help pay their bills. Both were paying them back at the time of the investigation.

A North Carolina postmaster claimed $9,400 in mileage for 96 service reviews of various post offices for which she had no records, and which several other employees told investigators they were unaware of.

The postmaster said she wasn't required to keep records of the reviews and didn't always file her reports, but sometimes helped an office fix problems instead, or did an informal review. She also said she was occasionally unable to perform a review if she arrived at an office when it was closed for lunch.

Other witnesses said they did far fewer service reviews, kept their reports for four months and were rarely instructed not to file a failing report.

Witnesses also denied service requests took place on some of the days the postmaster claimed she did a review.

The postmaster settled with USPS to pay $5,000 in false travel charges in exchange for a demotion instead of firing, and was downgraded to customer service supervisor.

Several other post office employees claimed thousands of dollars worth of extra mileage on travel expense forms by claiming trips or legs of trips that weren't reimbursable.

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