David Grieder, The Triplicate

A supervisor at the Crescent City post office is under investigation for theft of prescription drugs from coworkers and area veterans, according to court records.

Hollie Maready, 39, is suspected of using her position as supervisor of customer service for the U.S. Postal Service to steal pharmaceuticals from packages, coworkers, and private homes.

Maready hasn't been charged with any crime.

Superior Court Judge Darren McElfresh authorized a search warrant of

Maready's home and car Sept. 9 after Del Norte County sheriff's

investigators outlined allegations against her by witnesses in an

affidavit filed with the court.

Officials said the search warrant grew from a now three-year

investigation into thefts of prescription painkillers from the mail.

Attempts to reach Maready for comment weren't successful. Her

husband, John Maready, contacted Tuesday at their home, said he had

taken his wife to a rehabilitation facility the day before.

An emotional Maready told the Triplicate his wife had become addicted

to medication prescribed by her doctor for a shoulder injury. Maready

said his wife has worked 17 years for the postal service and is well

respected by her colleagues.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Bill Steven said deputies had for "a very long time

now" been working with postal inspectors from the Bay area,

investigating "dozens of pill thefts," many of them from packages being

shipped to local veterans. The investigation was led primarily by the

Office of Inspector General, which "requested assistance from time to

time" from local law enforcement, said Steven.

A representative of the OIG confirmed the organization's involvement

with the investigation but would not specify a time frame for the

investigation.

"Our agency received a number of complaints about packages that had

been tampered with containing VA medications; we immediately began

investigating this matter with the Veteran's Affairs Office of Inspector

General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Crescent City Police

Department, the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office, and a Humboldt County

Narcotics Task Force," said Janet Roberson, assistant special agent in

charge, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

Maready was the "point of contact" during the initial investigation

by the OIG, according to court records. The role gave her direct,

unsupervised access to incoming packages of narcotic medications and

knowledge of the surveillance methods investigators put in effect to

catch the thief. According to Sgt. Richard Griffin of the Sheriff's

office, "no other employee knew everything."

Initially, investigators working with Maready were unable to establish a suspect.

"It was definitely frustrating," said Steven, "because we were working it and we knew it was happening."

During the three years that the OIG investigation was in progress,

numerous veterans continued to report theft from pharmaceutical packages

they received from the Department of Veteran's Affairs via the post

office.

"It was to the point that we actually made a new form. You'd be getting thefts every week," said Griffin.

Steven estimated the number of reports to be in excess of 50 during the three-year time period.

Whether the thefts originated within or outside of Del Norte County, the method was consistent and unique, investigators said.

Griffin said in most cases, pills were removed from a discreet

opening in the VA packages and arrived to their recipient with the

appearance of only being damaged in transit. He said it is a "very

specific way" of taking the pills not been observed anywhere else in the

country.

Some of the affected veterans re-routed their deliveries through UPS

and received their subsequent shipments intact. Others, observes

Griffin, "just quit using pills."

Last month, Griffin began began to investigate several burglaries

reported by post office employees and other victims, according to court

records. They were not at first believed to have had any connection with

the incidents of mail theft.

However, several of Maready's coworkers told investigators they

suspected she had tampered with packages inside the post office, made

copies of their house keys, and entered their homes when she knew they

were gone.

One employee told investigators in April that pills were stolen from

her purse while it was in the post office. The employee said she noticed

a bottle with prescription medication Norco 10-325 was missing pills.

She said she began keeping the medication in her locker at work and

"someone then tried to pry open the locker...while she was on her

route."

The employee said she told Maready about the situation and Maready said she would investigate.

The employee said sometime later Maready entered her home without her

permission while the employee was at work. The employee said her

boyfriend, who was at home at the time, told her about the incident.

A 65 year old man told investigators Maready came to his house

sometime in July in her personal vehicle under the pretense of

investigating a missing package. He says Maready asked to use his

bathroom. After Maready left his house, the man said he noticed about a

dozen Oxycodone pills were missing from a prescription bottle kept in

his bathroom.

In his affidavit, Griffin said Maready acknowledged visiting the homes but denied forcing entry or stealing anything.

Employees of the post office told investigators Postmaster Susan Vargas was made aware of the allegations but took no action.

Vargas declined comment when contacted Tuesday.

Griffin told the court he believes Maready is "addicted to controlled

substance pain medications" and expected in the search to find evidence

of burglary and elder abuse.

In executing the search, investigators confiscated a prescription

written for Maready, four cell phones, two key rings with 15 keys and

another brass key found in the console of Maready's car. Griffin's

accounting also noted less than an ounce of marijuana was confiscated

"for destruction."

Steven states that investigators are still working to "make sure that

all loose ends are tied up" before presenting their findings to the Del

Norte County District Attorney Dale Trigg

Trigg could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

"This is a great accomplishment investigation-wise," added Steven.

"Many of these victims were people in their 80s or 90s that served our

country. They were victimized not just once, but over and over again.

Weekly."

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