COLUMBIA - United States Attorney W. WALTER WILKINS stated that DENISE LARAE KEY, age 43, of New Ellenton, pled guilty in federal court in Columbia to theft of mail by a postal employee. United States District Judge Margaret B. Seymour accepted the plea and will impose a sentence after a pre-sentence report is prepared and reviewed.
Evidence presented in court established that Key worked at the New Ellenton post office as a mail clerk. From November 2006 through November 2007, she routinely opened mail and took out checks, money orders, cash, and gift cards. After being confronted by agents, she stated she could not remember how many pieces of mail she opened or threw away because there were too many to recollect. As for the gift cards, she then either transacted them or gave them to a relative. She was caught after numerous mail customers reported the loss of money, gift cards, greeting cards, and receiving opened mail. Key was identified as the employee pilfering the mail during a sting operation conducted at the New Ellenton post office last November. During the operation, she was observed on tape opening a previously-planted pink greeting card. The $10 Target gift card that was enclosed was later transacted by her relative, as confirmed by store records. According to Key, the relative did not know the source of the gift cards.
Mr. Wilkins stated the maximum penalty Key can receive is a fine of $250,000 and imprisonment for five years.
The case was investigated by agents of the United States Postal Service, Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Winston D. Holliday, Jr., of the Columbia office handled the case.