Melrose Man Pleads Guilty to Removing Items from Mail
Madison, Wis. - John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Robert Ernstes, 50, of Melrose, Wis., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Madison to removing items from mail and failing to deliver mail.
In February 2011, a postal customer reported that he mailed eight greeting cards containing $2 bills to his grandchildren. Some of the cards were opened and the $2 bills were missing. Based on the address from which the cards were mailed, it was determined that the defendant was the carrier that covered that route.
Based on complaints about Ernstes, a piece of test mail was put into the system on May 2, 2011. Ernstes took this piece of mail home with him and agents ultimately ended up searching his car, home, and garage and found approximately 9,000 pieces of mail that Ernstes had stolen, dating back to November 2008. The vast majority of mail was discovered intact although some pieces had been opened.
In accordance with U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy, postal customers impacted by the investigation have been notified through the DOJ Victim Notification System. The mail was held in evidence so the investigation and prosecution of Ernstes could proceed. In the next 30 days, the mail will be released to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for delivery according to USPS regulations. The USPS will attempt to deliver all first class mail. If there is first class mail that cannot be delivered to the addressee, an attempt will be made to return it to the sender.
The U.S. Attorney's Office has received hundreds of inquiries on this case. The office, in conjunction with the USPS, is working on compiling the requested information and plan on responding to the inquiries in the next 30 days.
U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb scheduled sentencing for May 24, 2012. Ernstes faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a three-year period of supervised release.
The charges against Ernstes were the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman.
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