Meeting the challenge

On the day after Christmas in 2017, Wyatt Cox died after overdosing on the drug fentanyl. The loss devastated the 25-year-old Florida man’s family.

Investigators soon discovered Cox had received a bottle of fentanyl-infused nasal spray in the mail.

That’s when the Postal Inspection Service got involved.

The agency — working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Justice and state and local law enforcement partners — helped pinpoint a suspect who was later convicted.

The case is one example of how the Inspection Service is helping to address the rise in opioid overdoses, a public health crisis that killed 50,000 Americans in 2017 alone.

“The Postal Inspection Service’s mission is to protect the mail — and that includes protecting it from the dangers of illegal narcotics,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. “The opioid crisis is a major challenge for all law enforcement agencies, but we’re working together to address this crisis and stem the tide.”

‘Dark web’ rising

The investigation into Cox’s death demonstrates the key role the Inspection Service plays in the fight against opioid overdoes.

During the investigation, local postal inspectors analyzed mail data and discovered the package containing the nasal spray that killed Cox had been shipped from Madison, WI, which the Inspection Service’s Chicago Division oversees.

“Historically, we see fentanyl in powder or pill form. This was one of the first times we’d seen it in nasal spray form,” said Postal Inspector Kyle Rau, who works with the Inspection Service’s Contraband Interdiction and Investigations group.

Working with its law enforcement partners, the Inspection Service was able to pinpoint a suspect: Michael Schoenmann, a Dodgeville, WI, resident and self-described addict.

The investigators discovered Schoenmann was operating a vendor site on the “dark web,” a part of the internet accessible through special software that can allow users to remain anonymous or untraceable.

“He purchased the fentanyl from other vendors, then packaged it as a nasal spray to allow addicts, like himself, to use it undetected,” Rau said.

During a 2018 sting operation, postal inspectors observed Schoenmann mail six packages. After inspectors intercepted the packages, the suspect was taken into federal custody.

A search of Schoenmann’s home yielded controlled substances and seven nasal spray bottles that were labeled similarly to the bottle delivered to Cox.

The Inspection Service is not aware of other overdose deaths connected to Schoenmann’s opioid shipments, which were mailed to addresses throughout the United States before he was caught.

‘Our biggest asset’

In January, Schoenmann was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.

During the sentencing, Cox’s mother, Melissa Cox, and other family members described their loss.

“My dearest Wyatt, my son,” Melissa Cox said, according to coverage by the Wisconsin State Journal. “I have no words. My heart has a huge hole. My life will never be the same.”

Rau said the Inspection Service is committed to protecting the mail system from being used for crimes like drug transportation and trafficking. He credits postal employees for their assistance.

“They are our biggest asset,” Rau said. “When they let us know about the suspicious things they see, whether reaching out to us first or telling us when we visit their facilities, it helps us do our job of keeping them and our customers safe.”

Local outreach

Postmasters and other managers and supervisors have been sent kits for Business Connect Month.

The campaign is being held in August to celebrate the program and its participants.

“We really appreciate our Post Office leadership,” said Mary Anderson, director of small-business sales at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC. “When the Post Office leadership is engaged and motivated to help their local small businesses, their employees are also more likely to participate in their employee lead programs. It’s a win-win.”

The kit contains an overview of Business Connect and how to participate, a reference guide and instructions on ordering materials that Postmasters and other program participants can offer business prospects.

Business Connect began in 2005 as a way for Postmasters, managers and supervisors to have discussions with customers about USPS products and services.

Since its inception, the program has brought in more than 7.4 million leads and generated more than $3.5 billion in new estimated annualized revenue, including more than $258 million for the current fiscal year.

To learn more about Business Connect and other leads programs, email the small-business team at smallbiz@usps.gov or go to the Small Business and Lead Generation Programs Blue page.

Peace and music

Woodstock stamps

The Postal Service will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the world’s most famous music festivals when it releases the Woodstock stamp Thursday, Aug. 8.

The stamp honors the four-day Woodstock Music and Art Festival that was held in August 1969.

The year marked the end of a turbulent decade of urban riots, civil rights and feminist activism, assassinations of notable leaders, and an increasingly unpopular view of the Vietnam War.

The Woodstock festival attracted a young generation of Americans, many of whom had become disillusioned with mainstream culture and adopted countercultural or “hippie” lifestyles.

The free event, held in Bethel, NY, featured more than 30 performers, including the Grateful Dead, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, and Jimi Hendrix, whose electric guitar rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” became one of the festival’s most famous moments.

Antonio Alcalá, a USPS art director, designed the Woodstock stamp, which features an image of a dove along with the words “3 Days of Peace and Music,” a slogan that pays homage to the festival’s original promotional poster.

The stamp, available in panes of 20, will be sold at Post Offices and usps.com.

News Briefs

Scanning snapshot

Scanning snapshot. The Postal Service’s national scanning rating was 97.76 percent during the week ending Aug. 2, down from one week earlier.

Western (98.06 percent) led the areas, while Dakotas (99.21 percent) topped the districts.

Scanning allows customers to track their packages and mail, and it helps USPS improve efficiency and network management.

To see the latest results, go to the Informed Visibility site and select “Customer Experience,” followed by “DES 2 Scan Performance.” Employees must request access to Informed Visibility through eAccess.

Flag reminder. U.S. flags should be flown at half-staff until sunset Thursday, Aug. 8, to honor the victims of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, TX, and Dayton, OH.

To fly the flag at half-staff, hoist the flag to the peak for an instant and then lower it to the half-staff position. The flag should be raised to the peak again before it’s lowered for the day.

For additional information, refer to the Postal Service’s Administrative Support Manual, which explains the organization’s guidelines on U.S. flag display and maintenance.

Newsletter news. USPS recently mailed the summer issue of the Pacific Area Update to employees in the area.

The issue — which covers employee engagement, dog bite prevention and other topics — is also available on Blue and LiteBlue.

Got news? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.