A U.S. supervisory postal inspector once named a federal employee of the year pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing mail containing prescription pills, jewelry, passports, collectible Playboy magazines and other items in San Jose.
Quan Howard, 53, of Saratoga also pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in San Jose to possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He will be sentenced Nov. 18.
In his plea agreement, Howard admitted that, from 2010 to 2014, he used his position as a supervisor to order employees at a San Jose processing and distribution center to call him whenever cash, drugs, electronics, jewelry, rare coins, precious metals and other memorabilia were found loose in the mail.
The items Howard stole included knives, gun parts, prescription pills and jewelry, including a “Joan Rivers Classics Collection” box containing a note signed by the late comedian, authorities said.
At one point, after being notified by an employee about loose mail containing marijuana, Howard took the drug, passports and “collectible 1980s-era Playboy magazines,” authorities said.
Federal prosecutors in San Jose charged Howard this week with delaying and destroying mail, theft and possession of stolen mail.
Howard told postal employees he would help return the items to their owners, but instead took them, authorities said. He tried to hide his actions from security cameras — at one point clambering onto a desk to disable a surveillance device — but despite that, authorities had numerous photos showing him stealing mail, authorities said.
Howard had been one of the Postal Service’s most respected inspectors.
In 2007, he was a witness in San Francisco Superior Court against then-city Supervisor Ed Jew, who was accused of lying about where he lived.
Howard testified that mail carriers delivered Jew’s regular mail to Burlingame, while mostly junk mail went to the San Francisco home where he claimed to be living.
In 2012, Howard was named federal employee of the year by the San Francisco Bay Area Federal Executive Board, which coordinates federal agencies in the region.
He was recognized for his “responsiveness in dealing with the media on issues involving criminal and hazardous situations,” according to a board newsletter. “In handling a recent sensitive issue, he provided advice dealing with aggressive media calls to frame the story depicting the Postal Service as protecting the rights of individuals and the mail.”