Friday, January 19, 2007

Cruel Irony

When I was on active duty in the Navy I was assigned as co-counsel representing one of two sailors accused of stealing things out of the mail system. They were postal clerks stationed in Iceland. Of course it required traveling to Iceland on two occasions; one to conduct discovery and the second time for the trial.

Iceland doesn’t or didn’t have a big PX nor a lot of opportunities to buy things on the local economy so most people ordered things from catalogues. (This was pre-e-bay in case you were wondering.) Anyway, these two postal clerks would pick up the mail from the plane and while they drove it back to the post office, one of them would be in the back of the truck going through things and taking what they wanted; shoes, gym clothes, watches, anything of value.

As you can imagine, this created quite a lot of frustration on the part of the military members whose things were stolen. They had to go through the hassle of contacting the company that sent the item, filing a claim with them and with the post office and sometimes never getting the things they ordered. It was quite a morale dampener for the people that live on base.

How they got caught was pretty simple. One of the girls gave her boyfriend the Chicago Bulls jersey and expensive Nike shoes that she had stolen. The victim saw the boyfriend wearing them at the gym and asked where he got them. When he said that he received them as a gift from his girlfriend, the victim put two and two together and reported it to base police. It was all down hill from there.

Of course I felt bad for the victims but I had a job to do in defending one of these girls. I wasn’t successful, she got convicted, but I did my best to defend her.

Well jump ahead 12 years. Now I’m the victim of mail theft and I am or was, mad as HELL!!!

On bazaar day, we have a tailor that brings bolts of cloth and will tailor make suits, overcoats, womens’ clothes, tuxedos, dress uniforms, just about anything you’d want made he can make. And the prices are incredible.

Well over the course of the last four months I had him make 5 suits with two pair of pants as well as 4 additional pair of slacks. I mailed them home right after Christmas. Thankfully I insured the box but failed to list specifically on the customs form what was in the box. All I said was “clothes,” Christmas decorations and a few other things.

I won’t give you all the details of this incident, but when the box arrived home Janae e-mailed me asking if there weren’t supposed to be suits in the box. I thought, “what a silly question. Of course there are suits in the box – five coats and 14 pair of pants”

Yep, you guessed it. Someone at customs opened my box and stole all my suit coats and all but three pair of pants. I can’t tell you how angry I was. It’s been several days now so I’ve calmed down and am taking steps to help Janae file a claim with the post office but there’s no guarantee they’ll honor my claim. They may say that since all I listed on the form was clothes and clothes were delivered they won’t honor the claim. I’m hoping that by getting statements from the postal clerk who examined the box and saw that it was full of clothes, getting receipts from the tailor and a statement from me that the post office will be persuaded that I’m not trying to commit fraud. If they don’t, well then I’ve learned a very expensive lesson. After Janae files the claim, I should know in 8-10 weeks after that. Wish me luck!!

Janae said that the clerk at the post office told her that you have to be very specific when you fill out the customs form. If you just list general things like I did, without being specific, it can be an invitation for a dishonest customs agent to open the box and go shopping. Much like what the girls in Iceland did. The girls that I defended.

Anyway it just seemed like a cruel turn of events that I would defend criminals who stole things out of the mail and now I’m the victim.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pretty Cat