Six UPS drivers teamed up with doormen and elevator operators to steal and resell electronic equipment, clothing and jewelry, federal authorities say.
The drivers were among 14 men arrested, prosecutors and FBI agents said Wednesday. Each could get up to 10 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and theft.Much of the stolen merchandise was sold to an undercover FBI agent during 67 instances outlined in an indictment returned in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said the Atlanta-based company notified the FBI that it suspected criminal activity.
"We take it seriously. You're really delivering the hopes, wishes and dreams of people," UPS spokesman Robert Godlewski said.
Godlewski said it was the only large-scale stealing episode he could recall of for UPS, which has 300,000 employees across the United States delivering 12 million packages a day.
"We don't want people to get the impression you can't trust your UPS driver," he said. "Some are better respected than ministers or the local Boy Scout leader. They are like an American icon. It would be terrible to besmirch the record of many because of the actions of a few."
UPS driver Manny Lopez made the rounds Wednesday on the route covered by one arrested driver.
"Everybody's asking, `Where's Bobby?"' he said.
Lopez, who had delivered 82 packages in less than four hours and still managed to eat lunch, showed the elaborate computerized system in place to ensure packages reach their destination.
He demonstrated how he must scan each package with a handheld computer and be able to explain where each item is at any moment.
"It's almost a foolproof system," Godlewski said.
Godlewski said the problem may originate when packages are left at locations where signatures are not required.