image image

United States

Change-of-address scam moved UPS headquarters to tiny Chicago flat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 1:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 3:39am

The time-worn building in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighbourhood hardly looks like the corporate headquarters of one of the world’s largest shipping companies.

But for a few recent months, that is essentially what it became – at least as far as the US Postal Service was concerned.

Federal court papers unsealed last week revealed an astonishing but ultimately bungled scheme to file a change-of-address form claiming that shipping giant United Parcel Service had moved its headquarters from a bustling business park in Atlanta to a tiny garden flat.

Not only did the change go through, but it also took months for anyone to catch on. 

In the meantime, so many thousands of pieces of first-class mail meant for UPS poured into flat L2 at 6750 N Ashland Avenue that a mail carrier had to bring in a tub to hold it all, a search warrant application filed in US District Court disclosed.

Among the correspondence were letters meant for the company’s CEO and other executives, sensitive documents containing personal information, as well as corporate credit cards and tens of thousands of dollars in business cheques, according to an affidavit from the US Postal Inspection Service submitted with the warrant.

It wasn’t until the resident, Dushaun Spruce, allegedly deposited nearly US$60,000 in UPS cheques into his bank account in late January that UPS was alerted to the suspected scam, court papers say.

The change of address procedure is outlined in the video below.

In a brief interview last week with a Chicago Tribune reporter, Spruce acknowledged that authorities had served a warrant on him in January and seized mail, chequebooks, bank records and other documents from his flat.

“They took things they weren’t supposed to,” said Spruce, 24, standing barefoot at the building’s main entrance.

While not disclosing Spruce’s name, the unsealed warrant contained other clues to his identity: both his current flat number at the Ashland address as well as his previous address in the 1900 block of West Fargo Avenue. Public records listed both addresses for him.

Spruce has not been criminally charged and denies any wrongdoing. The investigation by postal inspectors and federal prosecutors continues, law enforcement sources said.

A spokesman for UPS confirmed that the company was recently notified that mail intended for UPS employees had been “redirected by an unauthorised change of address by a third party.” He declined further comment.

While fraud involving change-of-address forms has long been linked to identity thieves, the targets are usually unsuspecting individuals, not huge corporations.

But that is exactly what allegedly happened last October 26 when, according to the affidavit, a written change-of-address form was submitted requesting that UPS’ headquarters address at 55 Glenlake Parkway NE in Atlanta be changed to Spruce’s one-bedroom flat in Rogers Park.

According to the affidavit, Spruce did not identify himself on the one-page form. At first, his initials were written on the signature line. However, those initials were then scratched out and replaced with “UPS,” the affidavit alleged.

Another error on the form was scratched out and replaced with the same initials, according to the affidavit.

It wasn’t until January 16 – nearly three months after the address changes – that a UPS security coordinator caught on to the alleged scheme and notified postal inspectors, the court records show.

The security coordinator notified investigators that not only had UPS not authorised the change, but it also appeared that about 150 corporate American Express cards in various employee names – including the CEO and members of the board of directors – had been issued under the Ashland Avenue address, the affidavit said.

It was later learned that only five cards had actually been shipped, and none had been misused, according to the affidavit.