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Press Release

Clarion Man Sentenced for Possessing Stolen Mail

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa

A Clarion man who possessed stolen mail was sentenced May 13, 2019, to three years’ federal probation.  Timothy Russell VanZweden, age 50, formerly from Belmond, Iowa, was sentenced after a November 9, 2018, guilty plea to one count of possession of stolen mail.

In a plea agreement, VanZweden admitted that he was residing with his wife in Belmond, Iowa, in November 2017.  VanZweden’s wife was a U.S. Mail carrier.  After receiving information that VanZweden was discarding a large trash bag in a dumpster outside a Clarion restaurant, in which mail was found, officers executed a search warrant at VanZweden’s home on November 17, 2017, and discovered five letters taken from his wife’s mail route in the home’s garbage.  In VanZweden’s truck, officers found a counterfeit U.S. Postal Service “arrow key,” a special key used to unlock receptacles for U.S. Mail.

Less than two weeks later, on November 28, 2017, officers executed another search warrant at VanZweden’s home and found more stolen mail in the home’s garage.  VanZweden admitted throwing a large garbage bag into the dumpster in Clarion, Iowa.  He also admitted he burglarized two residences on his wife’s mail route in Belmond, Iowa, because the homeowners were “beautiful people” for whom everything in life came easily.  VanZweden stated “one lady” was snotty to him when he walked through her grass, and the other lady had looked down upon him when he said “hi” to her in the pharmacy.

VanZweden was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  VanZweden was sentenced to three years’ probation. 

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tim Vavricek and investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service.  Court file information at

The case file number is 18-CR-3042. 

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Updated May 14, 2019

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