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Tamaqua man pleads guilty in post office kickback scheme

Joseph Whitbeck, 56, of Tamaqua, pleaded guilty to multiple fraud charges before United States District Court Judge Edward G. Smith stemming from his operation of a scheme to defraud fellow union members out of rightfully earned overtime compensation.

In April, Whitbeck was charged by indictment with wire fraud and honest services wire fraud. According to the indictment, while serving as the vice president for the Local 274 branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers in the Lehigh Valley area, Whitbeck operated a kickback scheme involving certain letter carriers at the Allentown Post Office.

As the vice president, Whitbeck filed numerous grievances on behalf of groups of letter carriers, claiming that U.S. Postal Service managers violated overtime rules.

The indictment charges that Whitbeck then settled these class-action grievances for total lump sums, without designating the specific individuals to whom overtime grievance payments were owed, so that he could select the payees at a later time.

Meanwhile, Whitbeck offered to secure extra overtime grievance payouts for some letter carriers who agreed to kick back a portion directly to him, generally in cash. This kickback scheme prevented nonparticipating letter carriers from receiving overtime grievance funds to which they were entitled.

The indictment also says Whitbeck often made false and misleading statements to convince letter carriers to participate in his scheme; for example, the defendant frequently told letter carriers that he would use the kick-backed funds to assist other letter carriers who were out of work.

The defendant’s covert kickback scheme lasted more than a decade and was uncovered only when a concerned letter carrier raised the issue at a union Executive Board meeting in March 2018.

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