Editor’s note: This story now includes a statement from Ravn Alaska sent a day after airing.
Six former Ravn Alaska employees are charged with stealing hundreds of computers sent by mail to village schools.
Federal authorities allege the men took the computers while employed as ramp agents for the air carrier in Anchorage.
Charged in the indictment with conspiracy, mail theft and possession of stolen mail are Congress Lepou, 29; Breadoflife “Presley” Faiupu, 36; Hubert Barte, 37; Paulo Maae, 24; Harold Velicaria, 35; and Rogelio “Roger” Daquis, 49.
All six of the men were arrested and in custody as of Monday.
The Apple computers went missing from March 2015 to April 2017. It wasn’t until the recent arrests that the rural school districts who’d bought them had an answer: They’d been the victims of mail theft.
“We already have long delays getting mail, and any additional, undo delay is even more frustrating,” Bobby Bolen, superintendent of Bering Strait School District, said.
Bering Strait and the Lower Yukon School District were both named as victims in the indictment. They would order the computers and have them shipped to Alaska, and Ravn was contracted to pick up mail at the U.S. Postal Service’s distribution center in Anchorage. The Ravn employees were then supposed to transfer the mail to planes headed to Alaska villages.
According to the indictment, the men took the stolen mail to their personal vehicles.
“The Ravn Alaska employees utilized that company truck to, instead of taking the mail directly to the airplanes, to drive it to the employee parking lot and offload some of the items of value, including the Apple computers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward said.
The indictment says they later worked with others to sell the stolen goods.
According to another school district official, the missing computers were reported to Apple, and the schools were not billed for them.
According to prosecutors, the men stole 343 computers. In one instance, they also allegedly took hundreds of cartons of cigarettes and cans of chewing tobacco. The total value of the stolen mail was about $489,000.
The computers were supposed to be headed to the communities of Saint Marys, Mountain Village, Stebbins, Unalakleet, Emmonak, Kotlik, Alakanuk, Aniak, Greyling, Kalskag and Koyuk, among others.
Bolen, the Bering Strait superintendent, said the thefts meant students didn’t have the computers they needed for assignments.
“Today’s education relies on technology, and it’s a vital part of our curriculum,” Bolen said. “Our teachers will do what needs to be done, but it’s still frustrating to have to wait months and keep reordering things.”
It is unclear if Ravn itself will suffer any consequences to its contract with the Postal Service. The air carrier did not immediately respond to a request for comment and did not answer questions including how the theft went on for two years and whether the company had made any changes to prevent future thefts.
Editor’s note: A Ravn spokesperson said in a Jan. 23 statement that the company cooperated with the U.S. Postal Service investigators and assisted their investigation, and also fired the employees involved.