This 2023 file photo shows a USPS truck. Two former employees at a Berkeley post office and a third alleged co-conspirator have been accused of stealing mail packages full of marijuana to resell.

Sending marijuana through the U.S. mail is illegal — but so is stealing U.S. mail packages filled with marijuana and reselling it on your own.

Two former clerks at a West Berkeley post office, Gloria E. Navarro and Jessica K. Pardo-Alvarez, and a third alleged co-conspirator, Norman Beltran, are accused of doing just that. They were charged with mail theft and conspiracy in a federal indictment on July 25.

The plot began at least as far back as September 2021 and lasted until around May 2022, according to court records.

According to the indictment, Navarro and Pardo-Alvarez would pick out packages they believed to contain marijuana, steal them from Station A Berkeley on San Pablo Avenue and work with Beltran to sell it.

Throughout the alleged scheme, the former Postal Service employees stole at least 18 packages en route to destinations all over the country, most frequently to Florida, according to the indictment.

Authorities did not specify how the defendants allegedly selected which packages they believed to contain marijuana, where the packages originated, the value of marijuana or other items that went missing.

The post office confirmed that Navarro and Pardo-Alvarez had worked there until 2022 as sales and distribution clerks. Navarro started in 2011, Pardo-Alvarez in 2014.

A spokesperson for the United States Postal Inspection Service referred requests for information to a different agency, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, saying the Postal Inspection Service no longer conducts employee investigations.

A spokesperson for the Office of Inspector General said the agency could not comment on the case because “the investigation is ongoing and currently under federal indictment by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

Many of the court records in the case remain sealed. What little is publicly available shows that Chief Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu set each defendant’s bond at $25,000 at a hearing on Aug. 9. It is unclear whether any of them has posted bond.

An attorney for Beltran declined to comment.

Attorneys for Pardo-Alvarez did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the Office of the Federal Public Defender representing Navarro.

While California’s statewide prohibition on marijuana has ended, federal law still makes sending it by U.S. mail illegal.

The Postal Inspection Service conducts several thousand narcotics investigations yearly, seizing more than 100,000 pounds of illicit drugs annually for the last four years.

Seizures spiked in 2018 to 96,668 pounds, more than twice what USPIS seized each of the two years prior. The Postal Inspection Service ramped up coordinated investigations with other law enforcement agencies in 2016 and 2017 in response to an upsurge in opioid abuse in the U.S., according to their 2018 annual report.

Alex N. Gecan joined Berkeleyside in 2023 as a senior reporter covering public safety. He has covered criminal justice, courts and breaking and local news for The Middletown Press, Stamford Advocate and...