BANGOR, Maine — A former letter carrier who earlier this year admitted stealing cash from cards and letters on his route in Orono was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to three years of probation but no jail time.
Lawrence A. Custis, 56, of Lincoln admitted stealing about $150 a week from people on his route over a period of 17 weeks from December 2006 to early April 2007.
“I wish I hadn’t done what I did,” an emotional Custis told U.S. District Judge John Woodcock moments before he was sentenced. “I’m sorry for what I did. I’m sorry I betrayed the trust of my family and my customers, and I’m sorry I betrayed the trust the Postal Service put in me. I’m glad my parents are dead. I wouldn’t want them to see how I screwed things up.”
Woodcock also ordered Custis to pay a fine of $2,150 and $430 in restitution — amounts the judge found was equal to the cash the defendant took.
Just five of the more than 10 estimated victims filed claims for restitution with the court. One of them, a former U.S. marshal, reported to authorities in March 2007 that money he had mailed to a child attending the University of Maine in Orono had not been delivered.
Custis paid the $430 in restitution Thursday.
A letter carrier since June 1986, Custis told Woodcock the first time he took any money he was putting an envelope that had become unsealed into a mailbox. The flap of the envelope cut his fingers. As he tried a second time to put it in the mailbox, the defendant said, he saw there was a $50 bill in the envelope, and he took it.
He continued taking cash from envelopes until he was caught and confessed in early April 2007, according to court documents. He waived indictment and pleaded guilty to theft by a postal employee in February of this year.
The thefts led to loss of his job — for which he earned more than $60,000 a year, Woodcock said — the end of his marriage and a conviction for a federal crime. The judge said that at one point last year, Custis lived in his car for three months because he was homeless and did not have a job. He works in Lincoln, Woodcock said, referring to information provided to him by U.S. Probation and Pre-trial Services.
Custis, who had no criminal record, faced up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, he faced zero to six months in prison or one to five years on probation and a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000.