The Most Storied Law Enforcement Unit Is One You’ve Likely Not Even Heard Of

USPS Inspectors

The federal law enforcement agency with the longest reach and the wildest tales cannot be identified with three letters. In fact, this not on most people’s radar. The US Postal Inspection Service can investigate crime related to the mail throughout the world, and they have uncovered some pretty crazy and dangerous schemes.

The Beginning

Benjamin Franklin became the first postmaster of Philadelphia when he was appointed by the British in 1737. His job was to regulate and survey the post offices and roads.

When he became the continental Congress’s first Postmaster General, Franklin laid the groundwork for additional surveyors since a single person could not do the job. He appointed William Goddard to the position of the first surveyor of the American Postal Service.

The Postal Inspection Service began the day Goddard started, Aug. 7, 1775. The service looked into all mail crimes, but there were so many that Congress decided ,the death penalty would apply for serious crimes.

Western Expansion

As America moved into the 19th century, surveyors got an update and became known as special agents. One of which was Noah Webster. In the War of 1812, agents reported on the British Fleet. As time progressed and settlers moved out west, so did the postal service.

Agents were put in place in Texas, Oregon, and California. Two statutes from that era still exist to this day. The Mail Fraud Statute of 1872 regarding swindlers and the Postal Obscenity Statute of 1873 making it illegal to “sell, give away, or possess and an obscene book, pamphlet, picture, drawing, or advertisement.”

In 1880, the agents once again were renamed and were known as Post Office Inspectors. Under this name, they had some of their biggest cases. One of their cases was taking down criminal organization, Black Hand since leader Salvatore Lima sent letter to their victims.

While terrifying, this is also how they were caught by Inspector Frank Oldfield. He found 14 of the members, they were arrested and convicted. Elmer Irey uses a similar method with Al Capone, arresting him for tax fraud. Same went for Charles Ponzi and the DeAutremont brothers.

On a softer note, the post office inpectors were behind the creation of the Army Post Offices in World War II, allowing soldiers to communicate with their families. They continue to monitor the mail and protect Americans to this day as the Silent Service.

Sources: 1, 2

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