Eighteen months after a Rapid City postal worker allegedly ripped off two gift cards intended for her family members, a year after she tracked down the suspect and presented prosecutors with a gift-wrapped case, and seven months after a federal judge dismissed the charges because they were misfiled, Dennyce Korb hasn’t given up hope that justice will be served.
In January 2015, Korb picked up two gift cards at U.S. Bank, slipped them into birthday cards, jotted a note and dropped them in a mailbox outside Boyds Drug Mart at Baken Park Shopping Center.
But three weeks later, when neither her daughter in Minneapolis nor her son-in-law in Birmingham, Ala., had received their birthday gifts, Korb knew something was amiss. After being frustrated by a lack of response or concern from the U.S. Postal Service’s customer relations representatives, Korb embarked on her own investigation.
With a bit of amateur sleuthing, the retiree once named national paralegal of the year, unraveled an apparent crime spree occurring right in the Rapid City Post Office.
"I didn’t want to let this go," Korb said. "If someone was stealing my mail, they were certainly stealing others. There was a thief in the Rapid City Post Office.”
Returning to U.S. Bank, Korb discovered that tellers actually record the entire number on the first gift card they sell each day. Miraculously, the $150 gift card Korb had purchased for her daughter had been the first card sold by the bank that frigid January morning.
Bank employees quickly contacted VISA, the credit card company, which was able to provide the entire transaction history for that particular card, including the times, dates and places it had been used. Korb was delighted to find that the card had been used by the thief to make small purchases at Rapid City convenience stores, McDonald’s, Culver’s, the Robbinsdale Lounge and the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Korb presented her evidence to Rapid City police, who were enthused because a number of the establishments where the gift cards were used had surveillance cameras. U.S. Postal inspectors and special agents subsequently traced the cards’ use and collected video, all of which led to a Rapid City Post Office employee who allegedly had stolen mail for months.
On June 19, 2015, the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicted Rapid City mail carrier Daniel Newman on a felony theft of mail charge. Federal prosecutors accused him of embezzling letters, post cards, packages, bags and other mail and stealing money and gift cards between November 2014 and March 2015.
But five months after charges were filed and a week before his scheduled Nov. 17 trial, Newman’s court-appointed attorney filed a motion to dismiss the indictment lodged against his client because it was “duplicitous.” In his motion, Assistant Federal Public Defender Stephen Demik argued that the prosecution had erred in filing charges by “joining in a single count,” two separate and distinct offenses — embezzlement and theft.
On Nov. 16, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey L. Viken agreed with Demik’s assertion and granted the defense motion for dismissal “without prejudice,” meaning new charges could be re-filed in the case, according to court records.
At the time, Korb said she hoped the matter wouldn’t be forgotten.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, whose representatives are prohibited from speaking on the record about pending litigation, was non-responsive to repeated Journal requests seeking information on whether and when charges might be re-filed in the case.
“Please understand that if and when we have something to report on this case, we will do so,” a spokesperson for the office wrote in an email to a Journal reporter recently. “We do not have a statement or information to furnish at this time.”
Then last week, just days after Korb and her husband had discussed what they had come to think was likely a case that never would be resolved, she received a phone call that gave her renewed hope that the alleged thief who stole her gift cards would finally be brought to justice.
The call, from Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Kelderman, was intended to tell Korb that her case had not been forgotten.
“He just wanted to assure me that they have not dropped this and they are not planning to drop this, that something will happen,” Korb said. “When you don’t hear something for months and months, you figure it got pleaded out. I was happy to hear from him yesterday and that they are very much planning to purse it and it hasn’t gone away.”
After working in the legal profession for 30 years, Korb was circumspect about the length of time the whole affair had consumed.
“It’s been a year and a half now,” she said with a sigh. “It’s said that the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”
Then, Korb laughed.
“Of course, you also hear that justice delayed is justice denied.”
As of Friday, no charges had been re-filed in the case, according to the federal clerk of courts office.