3 Postal Service Workers Accused of Writing Phony Letters to Santa to Steal Underprivileged Kids' Gifts

AVIANNE TAN
3 Postal Service Workers Accused of Writing Phony Letters to Santa to Steal Underprivileged Kids' Gifts (ABC News)
3 Postal Service Workers Accused of Writing Phony Letters to Santa to Steal Underprivileged Kids' Gifts (ABC News)

Oh, you better watch out! These three New York postal workers may be on Santa's naughty list this year.

The accused grinches used the postal service's program to stuff their own stockings with gifts that should have gone to underprivileged children -- posing as needy kids in phony letters to Santa to amass a treasure trove including electronics like laptops, iPads and headphones as well as clothing and other pricey goods, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court earlier this month.

In addition to making multiple copies of fake letters to increase the chances they'd get picked up by a "Secret Santa" in the "Operation Santa" program, the workers, Terry Jackson, Mahogany Strickland and Nickyeves Saintalbord, also replaced mailing labels on gifts so that they would arrive at their personal residences instead, the Manhattan Federal Court complaint alleges.

Letters to Santa Claus Reveal More Than Toys on Christmas Lists

Letters to Santa: A Sign of Tough Times

Children Write Letters to Santa for 'National Believe Day'

The alleged scam happened during the 2013-'14 holiday season, during which the USPS received more than 300,000 letters written to Santa by underprivileged children hoping to receive gifts, the complaint says. Just a fraction were fulfilled from the program's headquarters in the Farley Post Office in Manhattan.

"Although USPS employees processed more than 7,000 of these letters, less than half of the letters that were processed were ultimately adopted by Secret Santas," investigators added. "Thus, because Operation Santa was not able to fulfill all of the requests, every gift that was fraudulently obtained by a participant in the scheme effectively deprived an underprivileged child of a gift."

Jackson allegedly confessed that he made 20 copies of each of the four to five phony letters he wrote, according to investigators. He received a printer, two laptop computers, two tablets, clothing, bedding, gift cards, and other items, according to the complaint.

Strickland also confessed to making multiple copies of her letters, the court document said, adding that she received about two of each requested gift including an iPad, a laptop, headphones, clothing, and boots, the court documents say.

Lastly, Saintalbord allegedly confessed to writing four letters posing as a child and making five copies of each letter, according to the complaint, which added he received multiple gifts including headphones and boots.

In the "Operation Santa" program, letters to Santa are entered into a database by USPS workers, who then remove the children's personal information before offering them to interested "Secret Santas," investigators said. "Secret Santas" then purchase and send the children's requested gifts through the USPS.

Jackson, Strickland and Saintalbord are facing charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and receipt of stolen mail, according to court records that added if found guilty, the three could face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

ABC News was unsuccessful in its attempts to find working contact information for Jackson, Strickland and Saintalbord to get further comment.

According to ABC News station WABC-TV, the suspects appeared in court Wednesday. All were released without bond. It was not clear if they entered a plea.

The United States Postal Service told ABC News in a statement that it was "deeply troubled and extremely disappointed" by the allegations.

"The Postal Service is currently reviewing all of the facts involved with this incident and we will take whatever disciplinary action is warranted," the agency said. "We will also cooperate fully with federal prosecutors. We believe this incident is isolated and should not undermine public trust in the integrity of the Operation Santa program."

ABC News' Josh Margolin contributed to this report.