by Aimee Levitt
Thomas Riner, who sorted mail at the U.S. Postal Service processing center downtown, was convicted in a federal court last Wednesday, November 10, of nine counts of mail tampering and one count of mail theft. All ten cases involved taking money and gift cards from brightly-colored envelopes addressed to students at Washington and Fontbonne Universities.
That's right: Riner was stealing those poor kids' birthday money. Between October and December, 2009, he pocketed $2,500.
The post office began an investigation late last year after workers at several local post offices reported finding already-open envelopes. (Well, hey, at least Riner wanted to make sure everybody was still receiving their birthday greetings.) Surveillance cameras were installed in the main processing center downtown. In mid-December, Riner was caught on-camera ripping open an envelope and nabbing a $20 bill.
Riner, who is 48 and lives in Caseyville, was relieved of his position last December 17.
"[Tampering] ceased soon after," Peggy Smith, the manager of Wash. U.'s mail services told the student paper, Student Life. "We get an occasional open envelope from equipment or otherwise. This was a targeted situation. It was not a common occurrence, but we were very mindful of things coming in that are opened or damaged."
Riner will be sentenced in February. He could be fined as much as $250,000 and spend as long as five years in jail. And he might have to pay back the stolen money.