Pandora’s mailbox

When sheriff’s deputies come after her parolee ‘house guest,’ a Magalia postal carrier ends up in big trouble

HUB OF THE HUBBUB<br>This is Marguerite Marsey’s house on Briarwood Drive in Magalia, where sheriff’s deputies found a large quantity of mail the rural carrier allegedly had stolen rather than delivered.

This is Marguerite Marsey’s house on Briarwood Drive in Magalia, where sheriff’s deputies found a large quantity of mail the rural carrier allegedly had stolen rather than delivered.

Photo By Evan Tuchinsky

Thank old Ben:
Rural mail delivery and the use of contracted carriers in America dates to colonial times. Benjamin Franklin, who served as postmaster for many years, played a huge role in expanding and enhancing the service. Contracted rural carriers continue to serve large areas of America, including Butte County.

Here’s a strange story with a couple of twists.

It concerns a rural mail carrier named Marguerite Marsey, a 51-year-old Magalia woman. She and a man police described as a “house guest,” James Ingalls, 49, were arrested on March 7, a Friday, after sheriff’s deputies discovered they were in possession of stolen mail assigned to her route. They were also hit with a variety of drug charges.

Twist No. 1: It turns out that Marsey twice had been cited in Butte County as an unlicensed driver and had her license suspended for nearly 18 months.

The U.S. Postal Service has now fired her, but the question remains: How did someone with such a shoddy driving record slip through the cracks to become a rural mail carrier—especially when the USPS requires all employees, full-time and contract workers, to be subject to regular background and driving-record inspections?

“Once a year, what we do is check if they have a valid driver’s license. … We are required to have that on file,” said Augustine Ruiz, spokesman for the Sacramento District of the USPS, which includes Butte County. “We make sure to do our best to check their background.

“It doesn’t matter—if you don’t have a valid driver’s license, you can’t drive,” he added.

Fact is, the USPS does screen all applicants before hiring, and each individual is subject to a complete background check that includes fingerprinting, drug testing and a driving-record check, Ruiz said. However, that initial check is updated only every four years—and cursorily at that. All the employee is asked to do is show his or her current driver’s license to the local postmaster, Ruiz explained.

This honor system obviously failed in Marsey’s case. Though she might have provided the postmaster with her physical license, it didn’t indicate whether there were any infractions on her record.

Ruiz defended the district’s handling of the case. “It’s not really falling through the cracks. … We did what we are supposed to do,” he said. “If a driver does not tell us they are driving on a suspended license, then there is no way for us to tell.”

Twist No. 2 has to do with the Paradise Post’s coverage of Marsey’s arrest. The newspaper ran a story on the Tuesday following Marsey’s arrest that was essentially a rewrite of the Sheriff’s Department press release describing the event.

By the next day, however, the story was no longer on the paper’s Web site. A reader contacted the Chico News & Review questioning why the story had been pulled and asking the weekly to look into it.

Indeed, the only thing about the story that could be read online were the two reader comments about the story—the second reading, “Okay, this is big news! So where did this article go?”

Rick Silva, the Post’s managing editor, explained that he didn’t move the story to the “local news” section because, by the end of the weekend, it would no longer be “breaking news,” and he knew no one would be in the office through the weekend to update it.

Silva said the Post planned to follow the story as it moved through the courts and would be willing to make the original story accessible on the Web site if needed.

The story remained available on the Chico Enterprise-Record’s Web site, however. Silva said that, even though the two publications are owned by the same company, MediaNews Corp., each paper determines which stories it will run.

The mug shots of Marsey and James Ingalls, both arrested on a variety of charges.

In any event, neither paper looked more deeply into the story to discover that for at least 18 months the USPS was utilizing the services of a carrier who had no license to drive.

According to state Department of Motor Vehicles records, Marsey’s license was suspended from March 3, 2006, until Sept. 6, 2007, for “failure to appear.”

The records no longer show what the original ticket or infraction was, for which Marsey was required to correct. Butte County Superior Court records indicate that in 2004 she was issued an “unlawful to drive unless licensed” citation as well as a citation for proof of financial responsibility and registration in Paradise.

When Marsey was involved in a traffic accident in August 2007, she was again cited for being an unlicensed driver—this time in Chico. The case was closed when she was issued a new license on October 2, 2007, and showed it a month later at the Chico court.

Marsey was a “temporary relief carrier,” meaning she did not drive on a regular basis. Ruiz says the USPS would not have a record of how often she drove, or when, except to say that she held a subcontract for eight years with a contractor responsible for the rural area in Magalia. He did not have the name of the contractor who hired Marsey or know how often or when Marsey was delivering mail.

Actually, the Postal Service has a lot more to worry about than the fact that Marsey may have been driving and delivering mail with a suspended license—namely stolen mail from residents on Marsey’s route.

Deputies originally went to 14723 Briarwood Drive, Marsey’s primary residence, to apprehend Ingalls, who had a felony arrest warrant issued by the California Department of Corrections for a parole violation. In the past he’d given Marsey’s address to law enforcement officials as a place where he stayed. Court records indicate he has been cited in the past for possession of a controlled substance, as well as at least two DUI charges in Butte County and one for driving on a suspended license.

Deputy Sheriff Mike Turenne said Ingalls was arrested in the backyard. Marsey was not at home at the time. A search warrant was written for the residence as well.

During the search, the press release stated, “more items were located which indicated that the sale of methamphetamine was occurring at the residence.”

Deputies also located several boxes filled with mail belonging to area residents—"about the amount to fill the trunk of a compact car,” Turenne said. Deputies spotted Marsey driving near her home, stopped her and conducted a vehicle search. They allegedly found methamphetamine and more mail belonging to local residents.

The mail find came as something of a surprise. “There were no current reports on file of missing or stolen U.S. mail in the area, and there are currently no reports of dollar loss by any of the victims,” U.S. Postal Inspector Tony Wick said.

Nor is there evidence that any form of identity theft occurred, Wick added.

Wick said the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is currently in possession of the stolen mail and in the process of notifying all victims. Further investigation and interviews of victims are being done to determine whether the recovered mail was used in any criminal manner, he added.

The case has been sent to the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento to determine whether federal charges are warranted. If federal charges are not filed, the case will be prosecuted by the Butte County District Attorney’s Office.

Marsey and Ingalls were booked into the Butte County Jail in Oroville. Marsey was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, transportation of a controlled substance, maintaining a residence for the purpose of selling a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of stolen property and possession of marijuana. Her bail was set at $105,250.

Ingalls was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession for sale of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, maintaining a residence for the purpose of selling a controlled substance and a parole violation. His bail was set at $47,000.

Anyone who believes he or she has been a victim of mail theft is asked to notify the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455 or fill out a Mail Theft Complaint Form online at or