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Zoey, JD
Zoey, JD, Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 23578
Experience:  18+ years of NYS litigation experience.
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There, I'm hoping that I can get some legal feedback on

Customer Question

Hi there, I'm hoping that I can get some legal feedback on how to handle the following situation. I received a phone call on my cell phone this morning from a man who identified himself as a federal investigator for the postal service. My husband and I live in Grass Valley, CA. This investigator (Mike) was calling from Sacramento. He asked me if I was expecting a package. I was not but my husband was so I handed the phone to my husband. The investigator told my husband (David) that he has a package in Sacramento which was bound for our post office box. While our post office box was listed on the envelope (which was sent First Class Express Mail to be delivered overnight) there was no name in the recipient line. The investigator asked my husband for permission to open the package to insure that it's not dangerous. My husband said no. So the investigator asked him if he knew who sent the package to him. And he said yes, my friend Josh. The investigator asked him if Josh smoked. My husband told him yes, that he smokes cigarettes. The investigator told him that the dogs had hit on this package and that if Josh smoked dope that the package could have a smell alerting the dogs. My husband said he didn't know if he did anything like that. Again the investigator asked for permission to open the package and my husband said no again. So the investigator told him that he couldn't deliver the package because it might be dangerous but that my husband could come pick it up. So my husband agreed to come pick it up. So the investigator told my husband that when he gets there to pick it up my husband will have to open the package in front of the investigator to verify that the package isn't drugs or dangerous material. He told my husband that if he wasn't willing to open it in front of him that he'll have to obtain a search warrant to open it. The package is not drugs or anything dangerous or illegal. However, I feel like that is a complete violation of our rights. My husband drove down to pick it up but the investigator called him back and said that he would be out of the office and that my husband will just have to come back tomorrow. Which isn't a problem. But we can't figure out why this is such an issue and neither of us are inclined to sacrifice our rights and open the package at his request. I just feel like that if he felt it was dangerous he would have obtained a search warrant already and opened the package rather than leaving it in his office overnight. He has asked my husband repeatedly if it's cash. And even told him that people mail dope from California and other people send cash back in return. I'm not sure why this is relevant. I guess he thought that he could scare us into letting him open it. But we aren't criminals so we aren't worried about that. It seems like a huge hassle but I still don't think he has the right to open the package. My husband wants to pick it up tomorrow and open the package for him. He's afraid that otherwise the investigator will confiscate the package and we will have to wait several days to get the package back. How should we handle this?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  Zoey, JD replied 1 year ago.
Hello,
My name is ***** ***** I will be assisting you with this question.
How would a Federal Investigator for the post office get your cell phone number? When you said that he identified himself as a post office investigator, did he give you a full name and badge number so that you could verify this?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I assumed that he received my number from contacting the post office here in Grass Valley. The post office box is set up in my name. He only identitied himself as Mike and he gave a long number which he said was associated with my package. He did not provide a badge number or a last name. He kept saying that he couldn't hear me well and that I could call him from a landline by calling(###) ###-#### ***** call that number we get his voicemail at his desk and he returns the call from an unknown number. Or a number without caller id.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
He gave my husband an address to come pick up the package in Sacramento: ***** Office
2000 Royal Oaks Dr.
Sacramento, CA
Expert:  Zoey, JD replied 1 year ago.
Sorry for the delay. I was out for dinner.
I am not entirely convinced that you were contacted by a postal inspector. They don't need your consent to open the package. If they have probable cause to believe that it contains something dangerous or some form of contraband, they can get a warrant and open the package. For that reason and the officer's failure to adequately identify himself, the call does not make sense.
So either this so-called investigator is going to ask you for money, which is how these scams go if the "investigator" is simply a common thief, or they already know that the package contains possible contraband and they are setting your husband up for an interrogation and/or an arrest.
I would start by calling the Royal Oaks Post office at(###) ###-#### See if they can confirm the existence of "Mike" and your husband's package. If it's for real, you might want to contact a local lawyer and have him reach out to the investigator and find out what's going on, before walking into some potential trap.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks so much for the info. Honestly we have already considered this much. My concern is-- what are our rights exactly? The package is cash.-- $7,000 cash. Our friend has owed us money for a long time and occasionally he sends money in the mail. Like I stated before, we aren't criminals so we have nothing to fear from arrest. But my worries are that this guy has already set the stage to force my husband to open the package and then confiscate his money... i.e. Steal from us. I am aware of our rights under the fourth amendment. I know that he has to have a search warrant. But when my husband gets there to pick up the package does he have to open it in front of the investigator? And if he refuses to open it what can the investigator do? Detain him? Hold the package? We don't have a local lawyer as we've never needed one. And the investigator wants my husband to come to Sacramento in the morning. I'm not sure that we could call a lawyer who would be willing to help us before 10 in the morning. So I was hoping to get some insight from you about what the investigator can actually do once my husband gets there. I feel like my husband should be able to walk in, pick up his package and leave. At least he could do that without his rights being violated but I feel that the investigator is going to try and confiscate his money. I have warned my husband in the past that money gets stolen by the postal service all the time. But I guess it's finally a lesson learned. We would just like to go about this with the least amount of hassle and without having our money stolen/ confiscated.
Expert:  Zoey, JD replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for letting me know the contents of this.
Sending large amounts of cash through the mail is not illegal, nor is receiving such cash. However, dollars to donuts the authorities know exactly what is in there already and they are looking to question your husband.
If you Google this situation, you will find that the authorities will take the money as possible drug money, whether that's true or not. They are usually alerted to the presence of the money in the package through the efforts of drug-detecting dogs, which gives them the probable cause to get the warrant to open the package.
If they take the money and initiate forfeiture proceedings, which is what they either or doing or will want to do, in order to get his money back your husband will have to file paperwork and perhaps have a hearing that demonstrates that the money is not the proceeds of illegal activity nor is it going to be used for illegal activity.
It's great that the post office investigator wants you to come in tomorrow, but your husband should not go without first consulting with a local lawyer. In my experience, he is likely to return without the package. If they haven't opened this already, they will get a warrant and do so if your husband doesn't give his consent.
Here are the Federal forefeiture laws:
https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/39/233.7