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A Stranger in Your Queue

If your Netflix movies take too long to arrive, you may be sharing your subscription with your mail carrier.


JIan Zhong Li loved Netflix. After a long night sorting mail at a Queens processing center, he could settle in at his Brooklyn home with all sorts of movies he’d never seen in the theater. Li especially loved Netflix because the DVDs come in well-labeled red envelopes that make them easy to identify amid the bulk junk. It also makes them so much easier to steal. When postal inspectors followed Li to his car, they found 83 stolen discs.

And he’s not the only one: There appears to be a trend of similarly tempted postal workers. Bronx mail carrier Luis Ayala tried to cover his indiscretions with personal notes. In September, he tore open a Postal Inspectors Service test envelope, decided he didn’t want that one, and delivered it to his customer with the message RECEIVED IN BAD COND.—LA. He was found guilty of a misdemeanor and awaits sentencing. In June, after two months of customer complaints, inspectors arrested Daniella Garofalo, a Midwood, Brooklyn, mail carrier, for stealing DVDs from Netflix envelopes on her route. The inspector addressed an envelope to a fictitious address and equipped it with an electronic tracking device. An alarm sounded when Garofalo opened the envelope. Inspectors have rounded up thieves in Detroit, San Diego, and Lyons, Colorado—where a carrier stole 503 discs before capture. Because civil-service rules make it nearly impossible to fire corrupt mail carriers, U.S. attorneys often agree to dismiss charges in exchange for their quitting. This happened to both Garofalo and Li. But then again, Li usually sent the discs along after he was done watching.


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