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Postal worker admits he hoarded junk mail

A 58-year-old former mail carrier admitted Monday in federal court that he had stashed thousands of pieces of junk mail at his home, opening himself up to a possible prison sentence.

Steven Padgett, of Raleigh, was a veteran mail carrier, employed with the postal service since 1995, and began a route in the Wake County town of Apex in 2001.

Recently, a utility worker spotted a large amount of mail in postal boxes at his home. The postal service was contacted and agents from the U.S. Postal Services' Inspector General's Office went to Padgett's house.

On May 6, they discovered dozens of mail pallets stacked to the top of his garage and filled with third-class mailings, mainly store circulars and coupons.

Padgett had been under pressure to deliver all his mail in a timely manner and began skipping the sorting of junk mail in order to save time, his lawyer Andrew McCoppin said.

“He made a poor choice, he made a wrong choice,” McCoppin said.

Federal prosecutors agreed with McCoppin that Padgett wasn't out to steal money or checks from residents.

“This is aberrant behavior of an otherwise law abiding life,” said Josh Howard, an assistant U.S. Attorney who handled the case.

Postal inspectors don't have a precise count of how much mail they took from Padgett's Raleigh home in May, but have filled up three-quarters of a tractor trailer with the mail found in Padgett's garage and even buried in his backyard.

Most of it was flyers featuring grocery ads, pizza coupons and other advertisements. No letters, checks or other first-class mail has been found.

“We don't see this as rifling through the mail,” said Larry Gleisner, an assistant special agent in charge of Postal Inspector General. “It was more his failure to deliver.”

Padgett's Apex route served 800 to 1,000 homes along Route 32, McCoppin said. The postal service never received any complaints from residents wondering where their junk mail was, Gleisner said.

Padgett resigned the day he was questioned by postal authorities. He'll be sentenced on Nov. 17, and could receive a punishment of up to five years in prison or three years of probation.

Those still on Padgett's route will be notified by mail in the next few days.

U.S. District Court Judge James Dever III asked Howard to determine if the companies who paid to have their advertisements delivered were also victims.

“I don't know what they paid the postal service,” said Dever. “But they obviously didn't get what they paid for.”