In March of this year a drug dealer in Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty to bribery of a USPS employee and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The USPS employee was a 27-year-old woman named Briana Fugate. On August 25, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wei Xiang announced the conviction and sentencing of the former USPS employee.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo convicted Fugate of “bribery, distribution of marijuana, and delay of mail.” She received a one year sentence. Although the press release never mentioned additional prison time for a probation violation—as she was on probation for state larceny—additional punishments may be waiting for her upon release.
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According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Wei Xiang, Fugate learned how to identify drug packages, especially those that contained marijuana. She would then open some of the packages, steal the weed, and distribute it herself—not as a mail carrier and not to the intended recipient. For other packages, she accepted bribes to help ensure their delivery. This pertained, according to court documents to packages coming from the West Coast to the East Coast.
“Assistant U.S. Attorney Wei Xiang, who is handling the case, stated that Hanchard received mail parcels from California and Arizona that contained marijuana for sale in Buffalo. Among his associates was then-postal carrier Briana Fugate who ensured the delivery of the defendant’s packages. In addition to receiving his own parcels containing marijuana, Hanchard paid Fugate for more marijuana worth approximately $30,000. Fugate stole the marijuana from other mail parcels that were part of her delivery route. This arrangement spanned August to October 2015.”
She worked out of the Central Park Station Post Office where she became the target of an undercover operation. The FBI, USPIS, ICE, and HSI received credit for the investigation, but she was a byproduct of several federal investigations into mail-order drug dealing or darknet drug dealers. Officers arrested her in 2015 after she had delivered one pound of marijuana to a customer, while on her delivery route. Police officers found more than 1,500 pieces of mail in her car that she had intentionally not delivered.
Fugate joins 56-year-old Dennis Bernhard, another Buffalo, New York, a former USPS employee who pleaded guilty to the same crimes as Fugate. Bernhard provided the drug dealers around Buffalo with lists of the addresses and residents along his routes. He would then take $250 per package to make the delivery.