Parachute postal worker allegedly stole drugs shipped by Veterans Administration
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PARACHUTE ” A padded Manila envelope with fake Vicodin inside was what snared a postal worker who was allegedly stealing medication from mail heading to veterans, investigators said.
Leta May McDaniel, 38, of DeBeque, was arrested Jan. 28 on suspicion of two counts of unlawful possession of a schedule two controlled substance. Authorities believe McDaniel, who was a rural route carrier for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), took Vicodin and methadone from the mail coming from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Grand Junction through the Parachute Post Office.
“The allegations came to us based on a number of citizens out there not receiving their medications,” said David Montoya, special agent in charge for the area’s USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG). “Most of these people are veterans.”
OIG special agents said a Parachute man told them he’d lost more than 500 morphine tablets prescribed for his pain from terminal cancer. Several others also told them they’d noticed missing medication or envelopes that looked tampered with, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
On Dec. 5, a special agent with the OIG placed a “test parcel” at McDaniel’s workstation. It contained a bottle of fake Vicodin and a wireless transmitter to notify agents if the envelope was opened, the affidavit says.
The envelope was addressed somewhere outside McDaniel’s delivery area, but she brought it on her route anyway and opened it two minutes later, the affidavit says.
OIG special agents following McDaniel received the wireless signal, approached McDaniel at her first delivery stop, and discovered she had opened the “test package,” the affidavit says.
The agents say McDaniel admitted stealing prescription medication from the mail for about a year and said she knew it was wrong but continued to do it to get drugs to help with her severe depression. Agents found about 10 Vicodin, 30 methadone tablets and five hypodermic needles in her car, and found more pills later in her purse, according to the affidavit.
“McDaniel stated she hoped the affected customers would not notice their medication bottle contained less than the prescribed amount of medication indicated on the prescription label,” the affidavit says.
Paul Sweeney, a spokesperson for the VA hospital, said, “As a matter of policy, we do not discuss ongoing investigations. … However, we do encourage our patients living in the Parachute and Battlement Mesa area of Garfield County who use our mail order service and have a prescription that did not arrive to contact our pharmacy and the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team.”
McDaniel was granted bond on her own personal recognizance and will have formal charges filed against her Feb. 6.
Al DeSarro, a spokesperson for the USPS western area office, said McDaniel worked at the Parachute Post Office since January 2001. She was placed on leave with no pay on Dec. 10 and she resigned on Jan. 19.
“There are issues of mail theft by employees nationwide,” Montoya said. “It’s a very, very small percentage.”
Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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