On the popular sitcom “Seinfeld,” fictitious letter carrier Newman hid bags of mail in Jerry’s basement storage locker rather than deliver it.
Real life mail man William “Brent” Morse of the western Kentucky city of Dawson Springs, stashed his in his dead mother’s house and a rented storage facility — at least 44,900 pieces of it.
“He wanted to speed up his route,” said city police Capt. Craig Patterson, who arrested him last year. “I think he was lazy.”
Morse, who had been a letter carrier for five years, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley Jr., to six months in jail, followed by six months on home incarceration, for destroying, hiding and delaying the delivery of U.S. mail.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for him to get a two-year sentence, but McKinley gave him less because he didn’t steal from the mail and only a few of the 250 mail recipients on his route suffered financial losses.
McKinley also ordered him to pay $14,808 in restitution to local residents, a bank and two other businesses for their losses. He had pleaded guilty in December and was sentenced last week. The sentence was announced Tuesday.
U.S. Postal Inspector Adel Valdes, a spokesman for his agency, said it doesn’t rank such crimes by size but “this was a big one.”
The New York Post reported in March that a Long Island letter carrier had been charged with throwing about 1,000 pieces of mail into trash bins. In Australia, The Age in Victoria reported last year that a carrier for Australia Post was charged after about 10,000 undelivered pieces of mail were found in his bedroom. His lawyer later told a court that he was “overawed” with his duties and could no longer cope, The Age reported.
Morse’s lawyer, federal public defender Patrick Bouldin, said that his client was going through a divorce, was responsible for picking up his children during the day, and would “store” his mail if he hadn’t finished delivering it.
“It’s not that he was stealing anything from it,” said Bouldin, who added that the missing mail represented only a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million pieces Morse was responsible for delivering.
Valdes said the scheme was uncovered when the owner of the storage facility found the door ajar, saw U.S. Postal Service crates inside and called police and the postmaster.
But Patterson said police first found the mail in the mother’s house, and that Morse initially insisted — falsely — that that was the only mail he had stashed.
Morse also was convicted of theft in state court for cashing about $31,000 in Social Security checks made out to his deceased mother, Patterson said, and placed in diversion for five years, according to the Hopkins County commonwealth’s attorney’s office.
U.S. Attorney David Hale said in a statement that Morse dumped mail for two years, ending in March 2013, and destroyed at least 1,000 more pieces. Most were advertising circulars, Valdes said.
Sue Brennan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, said, “We take the sanctity of the U.S. mail very seriously and the Postal Inspection Service and the Office of Inspector General prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who violates that trust.”
Despite Newman’s claims on “Seinfeld” that no letter carrier delivers more than 50 percent of his mail, the Postal Service says that 94 percent of the First Class mail scheduled for two-day delivery last year was delivered on time.
The National Association of Letter Carriers called Morse’s case “an unfortunate, isolated incident” and said virtually all mail is delivered as intended. It also noted that letter carriers are consistently rated the most trusted federal employees.
Hale said the Postal Service has since delivered the mail recovered from Morse to its intended recipients in Dawson Springs, which has seven letter carriers and about 2,775 people.
Mayor Jenny Sewell said she could have done without one of the letters she finally received.
It was a bill from her dentist, for work she had a year ago.
Reporter Andrew Wolfson can be reached at (502) 582-7189