August 9, 2022 - 4:22 pm
Updated August 9, 2022 - 4:35 pm
The Postal Service hired Jasmine-Royshell Black to deliver the mail.
In a federal courtroom on Tuesday morning, the ex-letter carrier admitted that she conspired to use the mail to fraudulently obtain money from national emergency relief funds, some of which were earmarked to help the unemployed.
Black, 34, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud as part of a plea agreement with the government. Federal prosecutors, in turn, dismissed five other charges against Black in connection with the fraud case.
In court, Black admitted under oath to using her position as a post office mail carrier to provide her co-defendant, Vincent Okoye, with “straw addresses” where people rarely, or never, picked up mail.
According to a federal indictment, Okoye used these addresses to fraudulently obtain debit cards from the agencies that disburse unemployment benefits in Nevada and Arizona.
The debit cards were obtained using identities stolen from 23 people. Nearly half a million dollars in benefits were approved as a result of the fraud, investigators alleged.
Black admitted delivering some of the fraudulently obtained debit cards to Okoye personally when they arrived for delivery on her mail route.
When authorities searched Okoye’s home, they found more than $100,000 in cash and money orders, nearly two dozen illegally obtained debit cards, and 100 pieces of mail that did not belong with Okoye.
Following Black’s guilty plea, her lawyer, Damian Sheets, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Black had no previous criminal history, and pointed a finger of blame at her co-defendant, Okoye, saying Black is “ultimately a good person who was the victim of a manipulative relationship with a man who allegedly has a history of conning others.”
Okoye also has pleaded guilty in the case. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 20.
Black is free on a personal recognizance bond pending her own sentencing, which was set for Nov. 2.
She faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors and her defense attorney have agreed to ask the court to give her a sentence at the low end of the federal guidelines. Black is no longer employed by the Postal Service.
Contact Glen A. Meek at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-380-8951. Follow @GlenMeekLV on Twitter.