(July 23, 2014) SAN JOSE — A once-renowned U.S. postal inspector has been indicted on charges he rifled through damaged mail and stole valuable items over a two-year span, and also for a separate count of marijuana trafficking, according to federal authorities.
While the mail-theft allegations against Quan Pham Howard, 52, surfaced after his arrest in late June, the charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana was not widely known until an announcement Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.
Howard was also formally indicted by a federal grand jury for possessing stolen U.S. mail and the delay and destruction of U.S. mail. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and potential fines of up to $750,000.
According to the criminal affidavit submitted by the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General, between April 2012 and last month, Howard instructed employees at the U.S. Postal Service’s San Jose Processing and Distribution Center to call his office or cellphone whenever valuable items were found loose in the mail. He reportedly told these employees that he was going to reunite the items with their owners.
Howard is alleged to have taken items including a gun scope and silencer, rare coins, loose silver bars, vials of prescription pills, $5,000 in cash and a Joan Rivers collector’s box signed by the comedienne. That’s in addition to collectible 1980s Playboy magazines, Civil War pocket watches, a bayonet, buck knives and passports.
Federal investigators were tipped off this past spring and began watching Howard. During their surveillance they found coin wrappers they had photographed at the San Jose postal facility in his residential trash, along with other evidence that he brought home valuables taken from the mail facility.
Ironically, about a month into the suspected theft timeline put forth by investigators, Howard received a “Federal Employee of the Year” award by the San Francisco Bay Area Federal Executive Board, a federal agency that helps coordinate various federal departments in Northern California.
A call to Howard’s attorney were not immediately returned Wednesday.