A Marion man who forged and counterfeited postage and committed export violations was convicted today following a one-day trial that occurred last month in federal court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Bradley Jon Matheny, age 42, from Marion, Iowa, was convicted of seven counts of postage meter stamp forgery and counterfeiting and three counts of export violations. The verdict was returned late this afternoon after a day-long bench trial that was held in February.
The evidence at trial showed that Matheny operated an eBay business known as “Mathenys” from his residence in Marion. Through “Mathenys,” Matheny sold retail goods to individuals all over the United States and the globe. Matheny used the United States Postal Service (USPS) to ship these goods to his customers; in 2015, for example, Matheny shipped over 28,000 packages with the USPS. Postage posed a significant financial cost to Matheny’s business. To reduce his costs, and increase his profit, Matheny possessed and used forged and counterfeited postage meter stamps on many of the packages he sent to his customers between November 2015 and May 2017.
In 2015, USPS personnel at the Cedar Rapids Main Post Office became suspicious of Matheny’s mailing practices after he kept dropping off his packages at the post office late in the evening at the dock. USPS eventually alerted federal law enforcement, specifically the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), that Matheny might be falsifying postage in connection with his eBay business. A review of Matheny’s packages in late 2015 revealed that most of Matheny’s packages had either insufficient postage or a forged or counterfeited postage meter stamp. For example, some postage was purchased at the 3-ounce rate, but the “3” was altered into an “8.” Similar reviews in 2016 and 2017 yielded similar results, and one expert testified that Matheny had shorted the USPS more than $250,000.
In 2017, law enforcement officers executed a federal search warrant at Matheny’s residence, a single-family house in Marion. During the search, the USPIS seized a large number of unusual paper clippings of partial Priority Mail and First Class postage meter stamps as well as a handwritten list of crossed-out Priority Mail tracking numbers. Law enforcement also imaged Matheny’s electronic devices and, on his computer, found a number of unaltered electronic versions of the forged postage meter stamps in question. Later, working with representatives of eBay, law enforcement learned that Matheny was taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the USPS’s electronic postage payment systems to receive Priority Mail treatment for his packages even though he had only paid the First Class rate.
Some of Matheny’s customers lived overseas, including in Israel and South Africa. The USPS required Matheny to make truthful declarations on these exports. Specifically, Matheny was required to truthfully declare whether the package contained merchandise or a gift and also the value of the contents of the package. Matheny falsely certified on these forms that his packages contained a “gift” that was worth a nominal sum such as “$1.90,” when in truth Matheny knew the contents of his packages were not gifts and worth more than what he listed on the forms. This allowed Matheny’s packages to clear foreign customs more rapidly and possibly avoid foreign customs taxes.
United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams convicted defendant of ten counts and acquitted him of five others. Matheny remains free on bond pending sentencing before Judge Williams. Matheny faces a possible maximum sentence of 65 years’ imprisonment, a $2.5 million fine, and three years of supervised release following any imprisonment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tim Vavricek and was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
The case file number is 20-CR-50.
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