The postmaster threatened retribution, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said.
"'You’re going to lose your job,' to one person. He said he was going to kill them, other people he’d tell, 'I'm gonna get you,'" he said.
Daniel P. Davis, regional postmaster for the U.S. Postal Service, was charged Tuesday with four counts each of intimidation of witnesses, official oppression, obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function and criminal coercion.
Those actions, Zappala said, include opening ExpressMail packages not addressed to him and possibly keeping drugs or money. Intimidation and harassment stretched through branches in East Liberty, Greentree, Sharpsburg, Swissvale, Pleasant Hills, Mt. Oliver and on McKnight Road.
Zappala said Davis, employed with the U.S. Postal Service since 1997, used the weight of his job to intimidate subordinates and told them his actions had a purpose.
“He would explain that he was looking for drugs,” said Zappala. “Quote, ‘Where I came from, we took drugs off the street.’ Also he explained ‘Drug dealers send packages from bad addresses, either from a business address or vacant properties.'”
Davis, 50, opened packages from what he deemed "questionable addresses" from particular states -- California, Colorado, Washington, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and New York -- after searching for their origins and destinations on Google or Zillow to determine their validity, according to Zappala.
In some instances involving methamphetamines, Zappala said Davis directed staff to notify Postal Inspectors. This, said Zappala “gives credence to some legitimate scheme he had in place.” According to investigators, Davis may have known to expect the nefarious packages.
ExpressMail, unlike other types of mail, bypasses x-ray machines. Under state law, these packages can only be inspected by a drug-sniffing dog if there is probable cause to believe drugs are in the package; Zappala said a bad address is not probable cause.
“Opening mail, by the way, is a crime. It’s a felony under federal law,” Zappala said. “It’s also a violation of postal regulations, and it’s a violation of your conditions of employment as a federal employee because you sign a form saying that you understand that you cannot open packages.”
Davis is not facing federal charges, but Zappala said the investigation is ongoing. He added that Davis can be charged with the state crimes and face additional federal charges. The different jurisdictions do not constitute double jeopardy.
Davis was appointed postmaster of the Pittsburgh region on a temporary basis in February 2014, and permanently six months later. The investigation into his alleged actions began in December 2014.