When President Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon was arrested on fraud charges Thursday, he was taken into custody by federal officials with the help of the United States Postal Service’s crime prevention force, a key arm of the agency that’s provided investigative and security support since before America’s founding.
With roots tracing back to 1775, the United States Postal Inspection Service works to “enforce roughly 200 federal laws related to crimes that adversely affect or entail fraudulent use of the US Mail, the postal system, postal employees, and customers,” according to its website. Inspectors are federal law enforcement officers equipped with guns who can execute arrests and federal search warrants, among other things.
Bannon, 66, was arrested on a boat off the Connecticut coast by federal agents along with officials from USPIS, according to the agency and a law enforcement official. He has pleaded not guilty.
The agency’s website says that “on rare occasions” its inspectors are asked by the Justice Department to “assist in an investigation that does not involve the use of the mails.”
“Our mission is to protect US Postal Service customers, employees and infrastructure from fraud and other illegal activity,” the agency said in a statement following the arrest. “We will continue this mission today and for future years to come.”
USPIS employs more than 1,200 inspectors, according to its 2019 annual report, while nearly 600 members of its armed force work to “protect critical postal facilities.” An additional nearly 600 employees provide technical and administrative support to the agency, including at a forensic laboratory it operates in Virginia.
According to the 2019 report, USPIS investigated more than 5,800 cases across a range of postal crimes that fiscal year, resulting in just under 5,000 arrests. Among the caseload are 39 money laundering cases, 63 of which resulted in convictions, and 480 cases of mail fraud, 395 of which resulted in convictions.
In addition to that, the agency investigated nearly 100 cases of suspected robbery, which eventually resulted in 65 convictions.
The Inspection Service traces its roots back to August 1775, making it the nation’s first and oldest federal law enforcement agency, according to its website, which says it was founded by Benjamin Franklin, the first postmaster general.
“Whether dealing with mail thieves in colonial times, stagecoach robbers in the 1880s, gangsters in the 1930s, the Unabomber in the 1980s and ’90s, anthrax mailings in 2001, or illegal opioid shipments today – Postal Inspectors are there,” the agency’s website reads.
USPIS is led by Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale, who was appointed in 2019 by then-Postmaster General Megan Brennan and reports to the Postal Service’s top official.
CNN’s Erica Orden and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.