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The Search for Illegal Contraband

U.S. Postal Inspector Carl King investigates drugs, child pornography, financial fraud and identity theft using the U.S. Mail.

With 65 percent of narcotics being transported through the mail, express services or private mail carriers, Carl King decided the best way to fight drugs was at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

During his 11 years as a Postal Inspector, King has had plenty of opportunity to intercede not only with narcotics and its financial proceeds, but also with child pornography, financial fraud and identity theft. He helped break up a Russian fraud ring that netted $2.3 million and an identity theft group from Nigeria that bilked 500 people out of $8 million. He has seized thousands of dollars in drug money and hundreds of pounds of marijuana all through cases that started with the U.S. Mail.

“We protect the mail, the employees and the customers of the U.S. Postal System,” said King. “Our nexus comes with the mail. If someone skims a credit card and the credit card statement comes through the mail, we get involved.”

Postal Inspectors enforce more than 300 federal laws in investigations of crimes that may adversely affect or fraudulently use the U.S. Mail, the postal system or postal employees. Among their most important areas of jurisdiction are assaults on postal employees; bombs sent through the mail; burglaries from postal facilities; child exploitation using the mail; controlled substances sent through the mail; counterfeit stamps, money orders or other related crimes; the destruction, obstruction or delay of mail; electronic crimes involving the misuse of the mail or Postal Service; extortion using the mail, forfeitures of assets from criminal activities; identity fraud; lotteries; mail fraud; mail or mailbox destruction, money laundering; obscene or sexually oriented advertising; robbery of postal employees and contractors; and theft of mail.

King is assigned to the Houston Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and he works out of the Austin area, covering Texas from Hillsboro to San Marcos, Fredericksburg to College Station. The biggest issue the office deals with these days is identity theft.

“Identity theft is our number one problem,” said King. “My only advice to people is don’t throw anything away. Shred it through the shredder. Check your credit reports regularly and mail everything at the U.S. post office. My theory is when the red flag goes up on your mail box, the 'steal me' flag also goes up.”

During his career in the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, King has served in Texas and in South Central Los Angeles, where his work focuses on organized gangs who use the postal service for illegal means. For the first two years, he was assigned to an Identity Theft Task Force, an interagency effort to combat widespread identity theft in the Los Angela area. For seven years, he has worked in the Narcotics Unit, where his top seizures include $380,000 in cash sent through the U.S. mail and 320 pounds of marijuana from a Los Angeles area home.

King, the son of a 34-year veteran of the San Antonio Police Department, always knew he wanted to be a police officer. He came to Sam Houston State University to get his criminal justice degree to make his dream a reality.

“I was one of the lucky ones who knew what I wanted to do,” said King. “Sam (Houston State University) was everything to me. The professors gave us a lot of good meat to chew on and when I was out in the field, everything they said came as second nature to me.”

After graduation, King took a job at the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department while waiting for his chance to get on the Houston Police Department. He handled 120 juvenile cases, but he knew it was not his life’s calling.

Six months later, King was appointed to the Houston Police Department, where he spent two years on patrol and six years in specialized units, including narcotics, vice and tactical, mostly doing undercover work as part of the “hot spot” unit, which targeted high crime areas with narcotic and prostitution sweeps. “We did the dirty work,” said King of buy-bust operations for drugs and prostitution.

King never knew about Postal Inspectors until one came into his office looking for assistance in busting a suspect with a half kilo of cocaine. While King initially wanted to go into the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), he figured he might have more impact at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“When I look at my career, I had tunnel vision to be a police officer,” King said. “I would recommend that students get a little taste of everything everywhere. Take as many internships as you can. Talk to as many agents as you can. The agents I know love to talk about their jobs. Once you decide on something, do it at 100 percent. A lot of Bearkats will be looking up to you and look you up where you are working. You just can’t image how SHSU has effected law enforcement.”

At the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, King learned to work as part of a team and to present cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. His job also reinforces the importance of paying attention to detail, which can make or break a case. He also found that the most important weapon he has is his mouth.

“You have to learn how to deal with people and have a commanding presence,” King said. “It can get you into or out of a bad position. It is your mouth and your brain, not brute force that matters.”


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