Six workers at the post office's mail-processing center in Bethpage pleaded not guilty at arraignment Monday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip to charges that they stole almost 300 packages of marijuana that were being sent illegally through the mail.
The six were among eight workers at the Bethpage center who were arrested in December by postal inspectors and federal drug agents on charges they were involved in a complex scheme to divert shipments of marijuana that were moving through the facility, officials said. The arrests were part of an investigation involving federal and local authorities into illegal drugs being sent through the mail.
The other two defendants are expected to be arraigned at a later date on the indictment charging all eight with one count of theft of mail and one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, officials said.
The thefts occurred between January 2013 and December 2014, according to court papers filed by Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Rose.
The scheme involved opening packages that were suspected of containing marijuana based on the sender's ZIP codes, the papers said. Then the defendants either sneaked the marijuana out of an unalarmed door at the facility or carried the marijuana in their own plastic bags out the front door.
Another method involved putting a label with an address used by the ring as that ostensibly of the original senders, the papers said. The packages were then marked return to sender, and replaced on the facility's processing belt, the papers said. A review of video recordings at the facility showed the almost 300 packages being sneaked out the unalarmed door, the papers said.
The 12 relabeled parcels that investigators seized contained 129 pounds of marijuana, the papers said. That marijuana had a street value of between $100,000 and $930,000, depending on how its quality is estimated, the papers said. No value was given for all the stolen packages.
The six who pleaded not guilty Monday have been identified as Timothy Marshall, 28, of Far Rockaway; Jerrold Rollerson, 25, of Hempstead; Tanicha Grenald-Allen, 36, of Brooklyn; Serwin Parkes, 36, of Brooklyn; Jose Hurtado, 43, of North Bellmore; and Eugene Williams, 37, of Brentwood.
The two other defendants have been identified as Kempleton Nash Jr., 29, of Cambria Heights; and Lloyd Johnson, 34, of St. Albans.
Defense attorneys who could be reached declined to comment, as did prosecutor Rose.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco allowed the defendants to remain free on the $100,000 bail each that had been set when they were arrested.
If convicted on the marijuana-distribution charges, the defendants each face up to 20 years in prison; the mail-theft charges carry a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.