Pleasant Prairie Postmaster Jeffrey C. Zgorzelski was charged yesterday in federal court with allegedly embezzling more than $60,000 from the Pleasant Prairie Post Office. At the same time he is being charged, he is pleading guilty, according to a plea agreement filed by U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen A. Ingraham. Zgorzelski agreed to waive formal indictment by grand jury.
Kenosha County Eye first broke the story of Zgorzelski being escorted out of his post office by Federal agents on September 15, 2022. Multiple sources last year told KCE that the Pleasant Prairie Postmaster was placed on leave on September 9 last year. One employee told us that the Postmaster was being suspected of theft from the office, with a value of more than $50,000. We called the Postmaster on his cell phone and told him about the allegations. He denied them and told us he was on vacation. We investigated and went to the Post Office to speak with staff. Minutes after KCE left the Post Office, a message went out to all mail truck saying “don’t talk to the media or answer any questions [about the postmaster].” Our sources were correct last year. We didn’t name Zgorzelski then becuase he wasn’t formally charged.
KCE Reached out to Desai Abdul-Razzaaq and George “Brian” Reeves with the Strategic Communications branch of USPS Corporate Communications. Neither would tell us anything about the investigation and referred us to the United States Office of the Inspector General. KCE heard back from Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kevin Cloninger who told us:
“As a matter of standard USPS OIG protocol, the USPS OIG does not confirm or refute information related to possible ongoing USPS OIG investigations, except in matters where details of the investigation become a matter of public record.”
The lack or transparency within the United Stated Postal Service is nothing new. Two years ago, a mail carrier for the Kenosha Post Office, Evan Quirk, was arrested and charged for theft. He was charged with stealing used panties from a mailbox on his route. The victim was a woman who sold used panties for money. Neither the Office of the Inspector General nor George Reeves would give us information then either. The Kenosha Postmaster Mike Hall didn’t fire Quirk, who’s mother is reportedly a supervisor at the Post Office. The USPS declined to charge Quirk and he his criminal charge was dismissed by Kenosha County DA Michael Graveley.
We checked with with U.S. Post office frequently over the last 5 months and their lips were sealed. Quietly and discreetly, a court action was created Monday night with no notice to the local media.
According to the plea agreement:
Zgorzelski has been employed by The United States Postal Services since 1993 and was Postmaster from 2017 until he was seemingly fired on September 9, 2022.
Based on concerns about missing stamp stock and cash, on September 9, 2022, the Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG) asked USPS management to conduct a spot audit at the Pleasant Prairie facility. The audit revealed that the cash reserve was $266 short. When the auditor told Mr. Zgorzelski of the shortage — but not the amount – Mr. Zgorzelski said that the money was at his house because he could not make it to the bank, and that he would go home and get the money. OIG agents subsequently surveilled Mr. Zgorzelski at an ATM inside a nearby Kwik Trip convenience store in Kenosha as he withdrew cash, and saw him return to the post office 15 minutes after leaving, without going to his house. Mr. Zgorzelski brought back $360 rather than the actual missing amount of $266, which suggested to auditors that he did not remember how much money he had taken. As the audit continued, the OIG agents were advised that the unit reserve had risen to approximately $36,000. By the end of the day, the missing amount had grown to $57,018.46, and a September 12, 2022 more detailed and final cash and stamp count at the Post Office increased the loss to $60,441.26. Mr. Zgorzelski admitted that he was responsible for this loss amount.
Based on these discrepancies, OIG agents interviewed Mr. Zgorzelski at the Pleasant Prairie Post Office on September 9, 2022, during which he admitted that he had been embezzling cash over the last two to three years. Mr. Zgorzelski said he had experienced worsening financial problems since 2014. He also admitted that he has had a gambling problem with slot machines and scratch-off tickets for the last two to three years, hoping that it would help him pay his debt. Mr. Zgorzelski said he lied about going to the bank this morning because he did not want his embezzlement to be discovered. When told of the preliminary $36,000 shortage discovered as of the time of his interview, he acknowledged responsibility for it. He denied having ever stolen stamps, but said he manipulated stamp count records to cover up his ongoing thefts, getting clerks to sign-off on stamp counts without allowing them to do a count of the unit reserve, which he unilaterally controlled. He admitted having taken about $500 from the unit reserve to gamble about two weeks ago. The audit found that Mr. Zgorzelski sold stamps to customers who paid in cash, and after the sale was entered, he post-voided these sales, which deleted the transaction.
The audit found that on December 2, 2020, Mr. Zgorzelski sold $4,565 in cash for stamps and then immediately post-voided the sale, enabling him to pocket the cash. Mr. Zgorzelski also took cash by performing “No-Sale-Following-Void” (NSFV) transactions. In these, he did a typical cash sale and then pressed the “No Sale” button on the touchscreen at the end of the transaction. The sale would be completed except that there would be no receipt for the customer. Pressing the No Sale button legitimately opens the cash drawer, but comparison of Mr. Zgorzelski’s use of the button with his co-workers showed that between October 1, 2020 and September 9, 2022, he performed 165 NSFV transactions with 142 void counts and a total void amount of $2,505.26. His two co-workers, by comparison, had fewer than 10 such transactions each during the period.
The maximum fine for this case is ten years imprisonment and $250,000 fine. The offense carries a mandatory special assessment of $100 and a maximum of three years of supervised release.
Zgorzelski agrees to pay restitution in the amount of $60,441.26 as ordered by the court to the United States Postal Service. Because restitution for the offenses is mandatory, the amount of restitution shall be imposed by the court regardless of the defendant’s financial resources. The defendant agrees to cooperate in efforts to collect the restitution obligation. The defendant understands that imposition or payment of restitution will not restrict or preclude the filing of any civil suit or administrative action.
Zgorzelski’s attorney, long time Kenosha attorney David Berman told KCE that he cannot comment on the pending matter, but may comment when the case has completed.