A postal worker couldn’t deliver his mail, so he kept it in a storage locker for $49 a month

By SCOTT DAUGHERTY | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: February 12, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Tribune News Service) — The letter carrier couldn’t keep up with the mail on his route. There was just too much, he would later tell investigators.

But Jason Delacruz didn’t throw it out. He rented a Virginia Beach storage locker for $49 a month and started stocking it away in the hopes he could somehow deliver it later.

“This was kind of an odd situation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Yusi said, explaining how Delacruz collected over 16,000 letters and advertisements in the locker before investigators caught on to the scheme last year.

Delacruz, the son of a veteran postal worker, was sentenced Wednesday to two weeks in jail followed by one year supervised release. He also was ordered to pay about $1,800 in restitution — the amount various businesses spent mailing the undelivered advertisements that were recovered.

The prosecution asked for one month in jail while the defense requested only probation.

Delacruz’s crimes came to light in May 2019, about 11 months after he started working with the postal service. In court documents, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Kosky said a concerned citizen spotted a postal worker unloading mail at a storage locker and snapped several photographs of the man and his vehicle. The tipster then contacted the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General.

Investigators were able to identify the postal worker as Delacruz, a city carrier assistant in Chesapeake earning $17.22 an hour.

When asked about his activities on the day in question, Delacruz initially denied any wrongdoing. When confronted regarding the tipster’s specific allegations, however, he confessed, documents said.

Delacruz told the investigators he felt “pressured” to complete his route but found himself unable to “make time,” documents said.

Delacruz started taking home mail in November or December of 2018, only to find himself overwhelmed the next February by all the letters and junk mail he was collecting. So, Kosky said, “he took the highly unusual step of renting a storage facility to store the undelivered mail.”

With Delacruz’s permission, investigators searched his personal vehicle and storage locker. They found no mail in the vehicle, but several bundles neatly stacked in the corner of the locker.

Among other things, agents found one package, 97 pieces of first class mail, 115 pieces of presorted and second class mail. It included correspondence from the Department of Motor Vehicles, insurance companies, the IRS, bank statements and tax return documents.

The postal service ultimately delivered the first-class mail, but trashed the advertisements because they were no longer timely, Kosky said.

Kosky decried Delacruz’s crimes as very serious in nature, noting that the postal service operates “primarily on the trust and good will of the American public.”

Assistant Federal Public Defender Wilfredo Bonilla Jr. laid part of the blame for his client’s actions at the feet of the postal service, which he said is finding itself forced to deliver more mail each year with fewer workers.

According to Bonilla, Delacruz had a hard time getting veteran postal workers to show him the ropes, and he had trouble delivering mail in a timely matter. The problem was exacerbated by the holiday season, when he was working 12-hour days six days a week.

Bonilla said his client, an Army veteran, “felt like a failure” but was too “ashamed” to speak up.

“I was so caught up in not wanting to be a failure, I made bad choices,” Delacruz said as he apologized to the court.

U.S. District Judge Henry C. Morgan Jr. dismissed the defense request for a probation-only sentence, saying he believed anyone who takes mail should serve time behind bars. But in light of Delacruz’s willingness to immediately pay restitution, the judge said the prosecution request was too harsh.

He split the difference.

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