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CANTON, Ga. -- Some Cherokee County residents say cash was stolen from cards they had mailed to recent high school graduates.

"I know you shouldn't, but I think kids are usually a lot more excited to get money than a check," Donna Devery, of Cherokee County, told 11Alive News on Wednesday.

She and neighbor Kristal Watson admit they know sending cash through the mail is risky and not advised, but that's how they wanted to surprise several recent high school graduate friends.

A few days ago they began to hear that most of the congratulation cards they'd mailed last week arrived in torn envelopes, but not the cash…like the one that friend Vickie Hunt's son received.

"There was a card from Kristal; he said, 'you may want to let Kristal know that there wasn't anything in there," Hunt told 11Alive.

Kristal Watson contacted the U.S. Postal Service, who launched an investigation.

Since all of the cards went through the North Metro mail processing center in Duluth, but then went to several different destinations, including some out of state, the USPS admits the possibility that the senders suspect.

"Each graduate received their card and they were also tampered with, leads me to believe that it was something internal going on through the post office," said Kristal Watson.

She and her friends said they've learned their lesson about mailing cash, but they're still hoping the post office can find out who stole the money they sent.

USPS spokesman Michael Miles sent 11Alive News an email statement confirming the investigation.

"If this investigation confirms that there was misconduct by employees, appropriate action will be taken. Theft of items from the mail is a federal offense that carries penalties that include fines and imprisonment of up to five years. We regret any action by postal employees that undermine the mailing public's confidence in the U.S. Postal Service. The majority of postal employees are hard-working, conscientious and dedicated individuals who do their best each day to provide our customers with the first class service they pay for and deserve. The Postal Service reminds customers they should never send cash through the mail. If you suspect you have been a victim of mail theft or mail fraud, contact your local postmaster…or contact the USPS at 1-800 ASKUSPS," the statement said.

Miles also sent 11Alive statistics saying that in 2013 the USPS Office of the Inspector General conducted more than 1,500 mail theft investigations nationwide, but that in the same year the Postal Service processed and delivered 158-billion pieces of mail.

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