The postal carrier who had 800 pieces of undelivered mail in the trunk of his car got caught, in part, thanks to a wrong turn, according to federal authorities.
Brandon Wilson, 27, was arrested Tuesday night at the Peace Bridge after border agents found a bin containing mail destined for several ZIP codes and included three absentee ballots sent out by the Erie County Board of Elections, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.
Wilson, of Buffalo, who was stopped at the bridge shortly after 7:30 p.m., allegedly told Customs and Border Protection agents the mail belonged to him and his mother, but could not explain the mail addressed to other people, according to the complaint filed by a special agent for the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General.
Wilson ended up at the bridge by accident. He had been traveling on the I-190 and got in the wrong lane, which brought him to the border crossing with Canada, federal authorities confirmed.
In addition to the absentee ballots, which had been sent to two addresses in Buffalo, the mail found in Wilson's car consisted of 106 political mailings, 220 first-class mailings and 484 standard mailings.
The majority of the first-class mail was addressed to locations in the 14215 ZIP code, but other destination ZIP codes were 14227, 14211 and 14214.
Cancellation dates of the first-class mail showed seven dates between Sept. 16 and Oct. 26, according to the complaint.
In addition to the pieces of mail, Wilson also had several pieces of his carrier uniform and his identification badge.
During an interview with agents from the Postal Service Office of Inspector General, Wilson allegedly admitted placing mail from his delivery routes into the trunk of his car, according to the court documents.
"Beginning in September 2020, Wilson estimated he placed mail from his delivery routes into the trunk of his vehicle on more than four but less than 10 instances after returning to the post office from his assigned route," special agent Brendan M. Boone wrote in the complaint. "Wilson intended to whittle down the amount of mail in the trunk of his vehicle by placing a small amount of the mail into USPS mis sort containers in the morning before his shift began. Wilson last reintroduced mailings into the mail stream in this fashion approximately three weeks prior [to] the date of the interview."
Wilson denied throwing out any mail or taking any greeting cards, cash or checks from mail on his route. He also denied knowing there were absentee ballots in the mail found in his car.
Wilson, who was hired by the Postal Service in 2019, has been charged with the crime of delaying or destroying mail, according to the court documents. He is assigned to work in West Seneca, but frequently works out of other post offices throughout Buffalo and Cheektowaga.
The Postal Service Office of Inspector General received information from the National Law Enforcement Communications Center about possible misconduct of a Postal Service employee.
"This office is committed not only to ensuring the integrity of the mails, but also of individuals' rights to vote in a free and fair election," U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. said in a written statement. "The criminal conduct with which this defendant is alleged to have engaged undermined both of those interests."
Wilson's first court appearance on Wednesday was done over video conferencing. Federal prosecutors did not seek to have him held in custody, according to court records, and Wilson was assigned a public defender.
If convicted, Wilson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Wilson was in the process of being placed on "emergency placement" by the Postal Service, which means he will be off duty without pay, a spokesman for the organization said Thursday.
"The vast majority of the United States Postal Service's more than 630,000 employees are committed to ensuring the security of the United States mail," said Desai Abdul-Razzaaq, spokesman for the Postal Service in Buffalo.
To report serious misconduct by postal service employees, the public should call 888-USPS-OIG or visit www.uspsoig.gov.