West Tisbury postal worker charged in theft of $13,000
State police last week charged a former postal employee with the theft of more than $13,000 in personal checks and cash from the West Tisbury post office.
Alcione Oliveira, 24, was arraigned in Edgartown District Court Thursday on larceny and check forging charges.
The investigation began when United States postal inspectors met with Ms. Oliveira on May 23 over one missing check for $1,500. Following that interview, postal inspectors turned the investigation over to the Massachusetts State Police.
State Police Sergeant Neal Maciel said he met with postal inspectors, who told him that when confronted, Ms. Oliveira said that she took $200 from the cash reserve and indicated there might be one more check unaccounted for.
Sergeant Maciel obtained a subpoena in order to access records connected to the investigation from the Edgartown National Bank.
"I found that there were actually three more checks and two postal money orders that were in fact taken by Ms. Oliveira and made payable to herself," he said.
During the course of the investigation, Mr. Maciel said postal inspectors contacted him with more information regarding the theft of another $300 from a deposit made to her post office cash drawer.
The investigation included interviews with several of the victims, said Mr. Maciel. He also spoke to Ms. Oliveira in the presence of her attorney, George T. Davis of Oak Bluffs.
Sergeant Maciel said Ms. Oliveira said she lives in Vineyard Haven with her sister. However, Sergeant Maciel said that when he went to the Canterbury Lane, Vineyard Haven, address she provided, she was no longer living at that address.
Ms. Oliveira was arraigned on one charge of larceny under $250; seven charges of larceny over $250; and six charges of uttering a false document.
As a component of her release, Ms. Oliveira a native of Brazil, surrendered her passport to the court. Her bank account at the Edgartown National Bank is also frozen.
Sergeant Maciel said that his investigation turned up no extenuating circumstances that would help to explain the thefts.
"She is in a lot of trouble," he said. "In general, people have faith in the United States Postal Service. On the Island the majority of people who work there are neighbors and friends we can trust, which is why this came as a shock to many people. Basically people hold the idea sacred that when you put a letter in the mailbox it is going to get where it's going, without somebody from the post office taking it. There is a trust in the postal employees and that was definitely breached in this case. And as far as any disposition, I am not looking to be lenient on any of it."
Island Assistant District Attorney Laura Marshard said that postal employees, like other public employees, should be held to a higher standard. "And that is why the district attorney's office is particularly concerned with crimes of this nature, because of the positions of trust," she said. "I think this is a serious breach of trust."
Ms. Marshard said that full restitution to the victims is one of her office's primary concerns. "Restitution is an integral part of our plea discussions at this time," she said.
In a telephone call, Mr. Davis confirmed that his client was arraigned and said he was in contact with the district attorney. He said that Ms. Oliveira has permanent resident status and lives in Vineyard Haven.
Ms. Oliveira is a graduate of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. Mr. Davis said that people who know her would attest to her good nature. "She has lived here for about ten years," he said. "She has held positions of responsibility in the past, never been in trouble, and these allegations are completely out of character for her."
Reached Monday, Paula Sullivan, West Tisbury postmaster, was surprised to learn that Ms. Oliveira was charged. She said she was not allowed to give any information but did confirm that Ms. Oliveira is no longer an employee.
A Postal service spokesperson would only confirm that Ms. Oliveira worked for the post office as a part time flexible clerk for three years.
At the moment that fact provides little comfort for one West Tisbury postal patron. Nickolas Peters of West Tisbury, a 25-year-old Island excavator, said that in May he sent out a check to pay a bill for materials he ordered from John Keene. The check never arrived, and he received another bill. "I had to pay John Keene to get my materials," he said. "It looked like I didn't pay my bill. We straightened it out, and I had to pay it again."
On Monday, Mr. Peters provided The Times with a copy of a check drawn on his account with the Dukes County Bank for $600, dated May 9, and made out to John Keene. On the back of the check a notation reads, "pay to the order of Alcione Oliveira," with an accompanying signature. The check does not bear Mr. Keene's signature.
Mr. Peters said he is disappointed and frustrated with the post office and the banking system for allowing this to happen. "It's been two months, and I have still not gotten my money back," he said. "It just doesn't seem right. I imagine other people are upset too."
Mr. Peters said he is trying to build a house, an expensive proposition on the Island, particularly for a young person. "Every little bit kind of helps, and every little bit you don't have kind of slows you down," he said.