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A St. Charles Parish man has admitted that he stole $630,000 worth of stamps from the U.S. post office in Kenner where he worked and sold them online in a desperate attempt to offset huge gambling losses in recent years, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Ryan Cortez, 46, of Des Allemands, faces up to 10 years in prison after pulling off what U.S. Attorney Peter Strasser’s office called “one of the largest internal postal thefts” in the Postal Service's 47-year history.

However, it is unlikely he will receive the maximum after pleading guilty Friday to a count of misappropriating postal funds.

Cortez is scheduled to be sentenced May 30 by U.S. District Judge Barry Ashe.

According to Strasser’s office, the case against Cortez began when postal investigators received an alert from PayPal and eBay that he was selling massive quantities of stamps. People frequently use PayPal to pay for things they buy on eBay, the popular online marketplace.

Investigators determined that there were more than $600,000 worth of stamps listed in reserve at the post office on West Esplanade Avenue where Cortez was a manager — far larger than the usual amount of $70,000.

Cortez — who was in charge of the stamp stock at his office and earned an annual salary of about $71,000 — had lost more than $667,000 at Harrah’s Casino alone in 2011, investigators learned. Roughly a third of that amount had been in 2017 and 2018.

Postal investigators raided Cortez’s home on Oct. 10 and found evidence that he had bloated the number of stamps at the office he managed. He acknowledged he had stolen “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in stamps in recent years, selling them online to fuel his gambling addiction.

Cortez’s two main buyers were in Montana and New Jersey.

He claimed he used another supervisor’s password to increase the stock of stamps at their office while avoiding detection, according to the feds.

Cortez was arrested after the raid. Court documents shortly after his arrest also accused him of embezzling nearly $10,000 from a church in Des Allemands that listed him as its treasurer, but those allegations didn’t seem to factor into his guilty plea. 

He is one of two former postal employees to plead guilty to a crime in New Orleans federal court in the last week. Courtney Duplessis awaits sentencing after admitting Thursday that she stole gift cards and cash out of the mail she was supposed to deliver last year in Elmwood.


Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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