MANHATTAN — These three are going on Santa’s naughty list.
Three U.S. Postal Service workers were swindling Christmas gifts from needy children, unwrapping laptops, iPads, headphones and clothing for themselves during a holiday scheme, Manhattan federal prosecutors charged on Wednesday.
Terry Jackson, 22, Mahogany Strickland, 23, and Nickyeves Saintalbord, 28, who worked at the post office’s Operation Santa Headquarters on 8th Avenue and 33rd Street, were arrested on Wednesday morning and charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, prosecutors said.
The three began working for the mail service's Christmas charity drive in the fall of 2013 and continued to work for the program until January of 2014, the complaint says.
The USPS national holiday program asks underprivileged children to write letters to Santa then allows corporate donors to sift through St. Nick's mail bag to find kids worthy of receiving gifts.
Then they would make copies of the letters hoping to increase the chances that a corporate donor would theirs, the complaint says.
During the several months that they worked for Operation Santa, the three accused would write letters to Santa using their own names, names of their friends or adult family members and or from invented names, prosecutors charge.
Strickland who worked directly with corporate donors would ensure that their bogus letters were “prominently placed in the ‘adoption’ area,” the complaint says, increasing the trio’s chances of getting their requests funded.
In another layer of the Santa scheme, they would simply switch out their own mailing addresses for packages that were already routed to giftless children, prosecutors said.
In 2013, USPS received about 300,000 letters to Santa and postal employees only processed around 7,000 of those letters. Less than half of the letters were selected by corporate donors, the complaint says.
“Because Operation Santa was not able to fulfill all of the requests, every gift that was fraudulently obtained by a participant in the scheme effectively deprived an underprivileged child of a gift,” the complaint says.
In interviews with the three defendants they admitted to having received a printer, laptops, tablets, clothing, bedding, boots, clothing and other items, prosecutors said.
Lawyers for Jackson and Strickland did not immediately return requests for comment and no information about Saintalbord’s lawyer was immediately available.
A spokeswoman for the Postal Service said that they were "deeply troubled" by prosecutors' accusations and that they are fully cooperating with investigators.
"We believe this incident is isolated and should not undermine public trust in the integrity of the Operation Santa program," she said.