By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal authorities have accused three U.S. postal workers of being Scrooges, by writing fake letters to Santa Claus to get Christmas gifts meant for poor children.
Terry Jackson, 22, Mahogany Strickland, 23, and Nickyeves Saintalbord, 28, all worked on the U.S. Postal Service's "Operation Santa" program in 2013, according to a criminal complaint made public on Wednesday in federal court in New York.
Under the program, underprivileged children write letters to Santa asking for holiday gifts, which are received and processed by the postal service. Individuals can "adopt" the children and buy them gifts.
In 2013, according to the complaint, the postal service received more than 300,000 letters and processed more than 7,000 requests. Fewer than half were fulfilled.
According to U.S. authorities, Jackson, Strickland and Saintalbord wrote numerous letters pretending to be poor children and brought them to the main post office facility in Manhattan, which is the center of the "Operation Santa" program.
The three workers made copies of the letters to ensure they would be available at the desk where customers adopt gift requests, the complaint said. The three ended up receiving laptop computers, tablets, clothing and other items, according to the complaint.
In interviews with an agent with the U.S. Postal Service's Office of Inspector General, all three workers admitted to writing multiple letters, the complaint said.
They were arrested on Wednesday morning and expected to make an initial court appearance later in the day.
In addition, Strickland and Saintalbord were also accused of relabeling gifts for children with their own addresses, and redirecting packages to their homes.
All three face mail fraud and conspiracy charges, while Strickland and Saintalbord also face a count of receiving stolen mail.
Defense lawyers either were not immediately available for comment or could not immediately be identified.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)