Money missing from mail

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April 15, 2008

2:03 AM

After receiving numerous complaints, William and Mary police, in conjunction with the United States Postal Service, is looking into the disappearance of student mail containing money or gifts cards. The investigation, headed by Campus Police Lt. John Coleman, began approximately two months ago and is still ongoing, according to a Campus Police representative.

Brendan Mascarenhas ’09 is among the students who have been affected. Last November, he did not receive two birthday cards from his parents, one containing $50.

“I just assumed that there was a mix-up in the mail system. Things getting lost in the mail aren’t unheard of, so I figured that’s what happened to me,” Mascarenhas said.

But in February, when another card failed to make it to his CSU, Mascarenhas decided to take action and filed a complaint with the Post Office. The February card showed up a few days later, but the two November cards are still missing.

After not receiving a birthday card containing $20, Megan Doyle ’09 said she was concerned when a Target gift card from her mother never arrived. Upon contacting the post office, the manager recommended Doyle have her mother track the card. Her mother did so and found that the card had been spent at the Williamsburg Target.

Though the post office management had originally suggested that they would view the Target surveillance video to see if an employee had used the card, Doyle was never contacted again.

In a similar situation, Charlotte Ivey ’10 said she never received a card containing $20 from her grandmother.

“I have received everything else she has sent to me except this, and she sends cards and letters fairly often,” Ivey said.

Ivey is hesitant to assume theft.

“I’m willing to give the mail center the benefit of the doubt. But if the card was taken intentionally because it contained cash, that’s pretty upsetting, especially when we go to a school that so strongly emphasizes the honor code.”

Mascarenhas agreed.

“This situation has definitely damaged my trust,” he said. “At [the College], we’re a community, from the students to the professors to the staff. Trust is one common ground we can all build strong relationships on. If one group violates this trust, the bond between every group has been left severely damaged.”

Richard Sears, head of the College post office, said the mail is sorted by staff members. If multiple complaints are made, management takes action.

“[We] scrutinize the acts of the employees whose assigned mail section has repeated loss occurrences and look for the mail in our insufficiently addressed area,” Sears said.

Sears also said that students who lose something of value in the mail have legal rights, as the College is insured under the Commonwealth of Virginia plan.
“If you believe that negligence on the part of the College caused the loss, you may have remedies under Virginia [law] that would allow you to recover directly against the state for your loss,” Sears said.

Finally, Sears urged students to follow the post office’s policy and ask that correspondents sending money or gift cards in the mail have the item insured at their local post office before they are sent.

Campus police were unable to comment for this story because the Postal Service is leading the investigation. Any similar occurrences should be reported to the William and Mary Police Department.

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