Money Orders : 2 Indicted in $400,000 Postal Theft

Times Staff Writer

Two former San Fernando Valley postal workers have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that they stole blank money orders and cashed them for more than $400,000 in what authorities are calling the largest such case in the history of the U.S. Postal Service.

Abraham Rothman, 67, of Sherman Oaks and Gilbert Capaldo, 43, of Reseda were each charged Tuesday with one count of conspiracy and four counts of selling and conveying government property without authority, Assistant U.S. Atty. Brian Hennigan said.

Capaldo is also charged with 25 counts of theft of government property.

Rothman was not charged with theft because he is cooperating with the government and assisting in the investigation, his attorney, James D. Gregory, said.

1-Year Period

The indictment alleges that Capaldo and Rothman cashed about 600 money orders, most of them in the amount of $700, over a period from July, 1986, through July, 1987, Hennigan said.

"They took blank money orders that the post office issues, put their names on them and cashed them in," Hennigan said.

Capaldo and Rothman were apprehended when postal officials noticed that several books of money orders were missing, Gregory said. Suspecting that employees might be stealing the money orders, officials began closely watching all those who handled money orders and checked into employees' personal bank accounts, he said. By identifying the missing money orders by numbers, authorities determined that they had been cashed and deposited into the accounts of Rothman and Capaldo, Gregory said.

Capaldo, a window clerk at the Sherman Oaks Post Office for 16 years, maintained that he was "conned" into cashing money orders presented to him by Rothman, who had retired after working 10 years at the Van Nuys Post Office, said Capaldo's attorney, Glen S. Fleetwood.

Capaldo cashed "a few dozen" money orders made out in Rothman's name or in Rothman's wife's name, because Rothman was a former postal worker, Fleetwood said.

"They were not on any list of stolen money orders, and Mr. Capaldo just cashed them in as he did for hundreds of others who wanted to cash money orders," Fleetwood said.

Gregory, Rothman's attorney, disputed that contention.

"I don't believe that and neither does the prosecutor," Gregory said.

Hennigan would not comment further on the matter.

Capaldo and Rothman are scheduled to be arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court.

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