The timeworn apartment building in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood hardly looks like the corporate headquarters of one of the world’s largest shipping companies.
But for a few recent months, that’s essentially what it became — at least as far as the U.S. Postal Service was concerned.
Federal court papers unsealed last week revealed an astonishing but ultimately bungled scheme to file a change-of-address form claiming that shipping giant United Parcel Service had moved its headquarters from a bustling business park in Atlanta to a tiny garden apartment.
Not only did the change go through, but it also took months for anyone to catch on. In the meantime, so many thousands of pieces of first-class mail meant for UPS poured into Apartment L2 at 6750 N. Ashland Ave. that a mail carrier had to bring in a tub to hold it all, a search warrant application filed in U.S. District Court disclosed.
Among the correspondence were letters meant for the company’s CEO and other executives, sensitive documents containing personal information, as well as corporate credit cards and tens of thousands of dollars in business checks, according to an affidavit from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service submitted with the warrant.
It wasn’t until the resident, Dushaun Spruce, allegedly deposited nearly $60,000 in UPS checks into his bank account in late January that UPS was alerted to the alleged scam, court papers say.
In a brief interview last week with a Chicago Tribune reporter, Spruce acknowledged that authorities had served a warrant on him in January and seized mail, checkbooks, bank records and other documents from his apartment.
“They took things they weren’t supposed to,” said Spruce, 24, standing barefoot at the building’s main entrance.
While not disclosing Spruce’s name, the unsealed warrant contained other clues to his identity: both his current apartment number at the Ashland address as well as his previous address in the 1900 block of West Fargo Avenue. Public records listed both addresses for him.
Spruce has not been criminally charged and denies any wrongdoing. The investigation by postal inspectors and federal prosecutors continues, law enforcement sources said.
A spokesman for UPS confirmed that the company was recently notified that mail intended for UPS employees had been “redirected by an unauthorized change of address by a third party.” He declined further comment.
According to the Postal Service, nearly 37 million change-of-address requests — known as PS Form 3575 — were submitted in 2017. The form, which can be filled out in person or online, includes a warning below the signature line that “anyone submitting false or inaccurate information” could be subject to fines and imprisonment.
To cut down on possible fraud, post offices send a validation letter to both an old and new address when a change is filed. The letter includes a toll-free number to call to report anything suspicious.
Each year, only a tiny fraction of the requests are ever referred to postal inspectors for investigation. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service could not provide a specific number to the Tribune, but officials have previously said that the number of change-of-address investigations in a given year totals 1,000 or fewer typically.
While fraud involving change-of-address forms has long been linked to identity thieves, the targets are usually unsuspecting individuals, not massive corporations.
But that’s exactly what allegedly happened last Oct. 26 when, according to the affidavit, a written change-of-address form was submitted requesting that UPS’ headquarters address at 55 Glenlake Parkway NE in Atlanta be changed to Spruce’s one-bedroom apartment in Rogers Park.
According to the affidavit, Spruce did not identify himself on the one-page form. At first, his initials were written on the signature line. However, those initials were then scratched out and replaced with “UPS,” the affidavit alleged.
Another error on the form was scratched out and replaced with the same initials, according to the affidavit.
Two days later, another form was submitted changing Spruce’s personal address from a previous apartment at the Fargo address to his new residence in the seven-story, gated courtyard building at the corner of Ashland and Pratt Avenue, according to the affidavit.
Voluminous Amounts of Mail
It wasn’t until Jan. 16 — nearly three months after the address changes — that a UPS security coordinator caught on to the alleged scheme and notified postal inspectors, the court records show.
The security coordinator notified investigators that not only had UPS not authorized the change but it also appeared that about 150 corporate American Express cards in various employee names — including the CEO and members of the board of directors — had been issued under the Ashland Avenue address, the affidavit said.
It was later learned that only five cards had actually been shipped, and none had been misused, according to the affidavit.
The day after the alleged fraud was detected, postal inspectors interviewed the carrier who delivers the mail to Spruce’s building. The carrier said “voluminous” amounts of UPS mail had been coming to the apartment for months, far more than would fit in the small boxes assigned to tenants, the affidavit said.
To accommodate the deluge, the carrier “had to place the mail in a USPS tub and leave it at (Spruce’s) door,” the affidavit said.
The carrier, who at times also handed mail directly to Spruce, identified him from a photograph shown by the agents, according to the affidavit.
A week later, postal inspectors returned to the building and began retrieving “several thousand” pieces of first-class and registered mail addressed to UPS at Spruce’s apartment, the affidavit said. Agents found that some of the mail “contained personal identifying information of UPS employees as well as business checks mailed to UPS and accounts payable invoices,” according to the affidavit.
That same day, investigators at Fifth Third Bank notified postal inspectors that more than 10 checks addressed to UPS were deposited to a personal account belonging to Spruce. The checks totaled more than $58,000, according to the affidavit.
Agents reviewed bank surveillance footage and matched the person making the deposits to Spruce’s driver’s license photo, according to the affidavit.
The search warrant served on Jan. 26 contained a list of items to be seized from Spruce, including “all mail, parcels and packages” and any credit cards, checks, invoices or financial records “of any kind” that were linked to UPS.
Agents also planned to seize “all items associated with identity theft, including personal identifying information (and) devices used to manufacture credit cards,” according to the warrant.
A Mix-Up Not His Fault
Spruce has no felony convictions in his background. But a year before his alleged UPS scam began, he was arrested twice in a matter of days by Evanston police on minor drug charges and allegations of bank fraud, records show.
On Nov. 20, 2016, Evanston police pulled over Spruce’s Hyundai and found an open container of alcohol as well as illegal substance, according to Cook County court records. He was charged with misdemeanor drug possession and driving on a suspended license — a case that prosecutors agreed to drop in exchange for 40 hours of community service.
Four days after the first arrest, Evanston police again charged Spruce — this time for fraudulently cashing a $12,000 U.S. Treasury check at a Rogers Park check cashing store, according to an arrest report. Spruce was charged with a misdemeanor count of deceptive practice. After he failed to appear at the Skokie county courthouse for a hearing in March 2017, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest, records show. The warrant is outstanding.
Records show Spruce was born in Blue Island in 1994 and raised on Chicago’s South Side, graduating in 2012 from Harlan Community Academy High School at 96th Street and South Michigan Avenue, records show. His full legal name is Dushaun Megal Anthony Henderson-Spruce.
Despite his young age, Spruce’s social media profile shows a laundry list of previous jobs, including summer work as a package “unloader and loader” at the massive UPS sorting facility in southwest suburban Hodgkins.
Spruce also listed past work as a restaurant dishwasher, a furniture mover, car wash attendant, “business coordinator,” a salesman and a “former everything at White Castle.”
His social media profile states that he’s working as a life insurance broker. State records show that he did hold an insurance producer’s license beginning in 2015 — when he was just 21 — but that the license expired last month.
Illinois Secretary of State records show that on Jan. 29, four days after the federal search warrant in the UPS probe was filed, Spruce established a company under the name Shauns Billing Services LLC. It’s unclear what, if anything, the business does, but its principal office is listed at Spruce’s Rogers Park apartment.
In the brief conversation with the Tribune outside his apartment building, Spruce hinted that he received the UPS mail as a result of a mix-up that was not his fault. He also mentioned that his identity may have been stolen, but he declined to elaborate.
In several recent comments on social media, Spruce seemed to take issue with how people perceive him.
In a post on April 16, he wrote: “I might laugh and joke around with some people and sometimes do dumb things for fun, but don’t ever think I’m stupid.”