STERLING, Colo. (CBS4) - A prosecutor handling the case of a former U.S. Postal Service worker accused of not delivering more than 26,000 pieces of mail, including letters and packages in Sterling said Monday he would allow the return of mail to its intended recipients starting this week.
At a meeting in Sterling, Jason St. Julien, assistant U.S. attorney for the district of Colorado, who is lead prosecutor for the case, told residents the mail is evidence, which typically would remain with the prosecution until a case is closed.
In this case, St. Julien said he is making an exception to get mail back to its intended recipients. People who were victims will receive a letter from the postal service indicating their mail was among items discovered in the investigation.
Last month, a federal grand jury indicted Tayson Adam Hidalgo, 22, on one count of delaying or destructing mail. He was arrested, charged, and released on a $5,000 unsecured bond.
Investigators say as a mail carrier, Hidalgo was responsible for routes across town, meaning that people not just in one neighborhood, but all over Sterling did not receive some of their letters and packages for about a year and a half, between October 2014 and April, when Hidalgo was arrested.
The postal service was first notified Hidalgo may have been hanging on to mail intended for delivery. After obtaining a search warrant, investigators found 19,000 pieces of mail in Hidalgo's apartment and another 7,000 pieces of mail in his car, St. Julien said.
Fewer than 200 pieces of the mail were opened or tampered with and about 100 pieces of the mail were packages, he said. He did not know how many pieces were first class mail.
Business owner Marilynn Hewitt says she first suspected she was not receiving all of her mail one year ago when the time sheets her long-distance employees were mailing to her never turned up. As a result, they did not receive their paychecks on time.
"It was very frustrating for all of us," Hewitt said. "My employees had to go out of their way and drive another two hours to get time sheets faxed to me, so they're the ones who suffered."
She complained to the postal service. Word of her mail carrier's arrest came as a surprise to Hewitt.
"He was a nice kid, I loved talking with him," she said. "But I was in shock that it happened here."
St. Julien says he'll seek restitution for anyone who suffered a financial loss, including late fees on missed bills or checks not received. He says no outgoing mail was impacted in the case. Investigators have not revealed a possible motive in the case.
"The U.S. Postal Service employs more than 610,000 employees and is the largest civilian federal workforce in the country. This type of behavior within the Postal Service is not tolerated and the overwhelming majority of Postal Service employees, which serve the public, are honest, hardworking, and trustworthy individuals who would never consider engaging in any type of criminal behavior.
The delayed mail will be delivered this week to all customers accompanied by a customer notification letter following tonight's town hall meeting. It is important to point out that the delayed mail does not include any outgoing, stamped mail."
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