Former postal worker pleads guilty to recruiting mail carriers in drug scheme

A former Georgia mail carrier who recruited his coworkers in a scheme to deliver packages of controlled substances is facing prison time.

Robert Elliot Sheppard, 60, of East Point, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and unlawfully using the mail to commit the crime, according to a news release Friday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Sheppard’s greed taints the public’s trust in U.S. Postal Service employees, the majority of whom are hardworking and trustworthy individuals dedicated to delivering mail safely throughout our communities,” FBI Atlanta special agent Keri Farley said.

According to the release, the plot began in 2014 when Sheppard took bribes in exchange for delivering five-pound packages of drugs through the mail system to Dexter Bernard Frazier, 60, an alleged local trafficker from Fairburn.

In 2016, Sheppard was on disability leave and unable to intercept and deliver packages, according to information presented to the court by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Ryan K. Buchanan. At that time, prosecutors said Frazier approached Sheppard about delivering more drugs, so the postal employee offered to recruit more mail carriers if Frazier paid him referral fees — cash and marijuana.

Tonie Harris, 59, of Decatur, and Clifton Curtis Lee, 46, of Lithonia, both carriers assigned to the Sandy Springs post office, were the next to get involved in Sheppard’s scheme, the release states. They were recruited and instructed by Sheppard as to how to deliver the packages while not getting caught, according to Buchanan. Both men agreed to participate and coordinated deliveries with Frazier.

“Harris and Lee each delivered three packages for Frazier believing they contained two kilograms of cocaine or 10 pounds of marijuana,” the release states.

In 2018, Frazier, Lee and Harris pleaded guilty to their respective charges, according to Buchanan. Each was sentenced to varying amounts of prison time and ordered to pay restitution.

“The vast majority of Postal Service employees are honest, hardworking individuals who would never dream of violating the public trust in this manner,” USPS Office of Inspector General special agent Scott Pierce said. “An employee who decides otherwise, however, will be aggressively investigated by OIG special agents.”

Sheppard’s sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 3.