ATLANTA (AP) – Sixteen postal workers in Atlanta and the surrounding area accepted bribes to deliver packages of cocaine, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

In exchange for bribery payments, the postal workers provided special addresses where the drugs could be shipped and then intercepted the packages and delivered them to a person they believed was a drug trafficker using the postal system to ship multiple kilograms of cocaine at a time into the area, the U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta said.

But it was actually a sting operation: The supposed drug trafficker was working with law enforcement and the packages contained fake drugs.

“Postal employees are entrusted to perform a vital service as they travel through our communities, often visiting our homes and interacting personally with our citizens,” U.S. Attorney John Horn said in a news release. “The defendants in this case allegedly sold that trust out to someone they knew to be a drug dealer, and simply for cash in their pockets they were willing to endanger themselves and the residents on their routes and bring harmful drugs into the community.”

Some of the postal workers recruited others to join the trafficking scheme and got extra money for packages delivered by their recruits, prosecutors said.

The postal workers were charged in three separate indictments that were unsealed Tuesday.

“While the vast majority of U.S. Postal Service personnel are hard-working and trustworthy individuals who are dedicated to delivering mail and would never consider engaging in criminal behavior, these charges reflect the select few who decided to betray the trust,” said Paul Bowman, special agent in charge of the Atlanta area office of the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.

Those charged include 15 letter carriers and one clerk who worked for post offices in Atlanta, Decatur, Doraville, Marietta, Riverdale and Sandy Springs. All sixteen have been arrested.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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