Cargo handler convicted of having sticky fingers

By John Lynds

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A East Boston resident working as a cargo handler at Logan Airport was convicted in federal court of rifling through U.S. mail while employed at the airport.

Andres Lainez, 48, of Chelsea Street, East Boston pleaded guilty on September 1 before U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock to one count of obstruction of correspondence in connection with the U.S. mail while he was working for Air General Incorporated

At the plea hearing, the prosecutor told the court that, had the case proceeded to trial, the evidence would have proven that in December 2007, postal inspectors began receiving reports of rifled mail discovered at various postal service facilities throughout the United States, including Boston.

An investigation revealed that the recovered rifled mail was all handled at Logan International Airport by employees of Air General Incorporated (AGI), located at 122 South Harborside Drive, East Boston. AGI is a cargo handling company that contracts with various airlines operating out of Logan International Airport. AGI receives mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to another contractor for sorting. The mail is then returned to AGI for additional sorting and delivery to the appropriate flights.

On January 10, 2008, the U.S. Postal Service received a customer complaint that a parcel containing a Target gift card had arrived at its destination with the card missing. It was learned that a phone call to check the balance on the Target gift card originated from a phone number at Lainez’s residence.

In February 2008, postal inspectors at Logan observed Lainez place two large yellow Priority Mail bags into a cargo container and close the container’s tarp-like side curtain. Lainez then climbed into the container, where he remained, with the curtain drawn shut, or almost shut, for approximately 21 minutes. Postal inspectors retrieved the two yellow Priority Mail bags and noted that 35 pieces of mail were damaged and rifled through. Lainez later admitted that he had sliced open mail from both yellow bags that day, and gave a ring from one of the yellow bags to a co-worker.

Judge Woodlock scheduled Lainez’s sentencing for November 24, 2009.

Lainez faces up to five years’ imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

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