AROOSTOOK COUNTY

Houlton postal employee accused of stealing drugs from mail

Posted Feb. 15, 2011, at 7 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 16, 2011, at 12:15 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — A 32-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service was arrested and charged on Monday with multiple drug offenses after police said that he stole prescription medications that were supposed to be delivered to local residents.

Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said Tuesday that Joey Skehan, 57, of Houlton has been charged with five counts of stealing drugs and two counts of unlawful possession of a Schedule W drug. All of the crimes took place while he was employed as a postal worker and the thefts took place at the U.S. post office on Court Street in Houlton, the chief said.

The investigation began last July and Skehan became a suspect last October, according to Asselin. Houlton police Officer Kris Calaman and an agent from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation. Skehan’s activities at the post office were monitored periodically using video surveillance at an undisclosed location.

The chief said that all of the stolen medications were hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller.

According to Asselin, the packages involved were mailed by the Veterans Health Administration to veterans in the Houlton area. The prescription medications were mailed from Togus or from a facility in Memphis, Tenn.

Once the packages arrive at the post office they are supposed to be scanned as being delivered and a notice placed in the addressee’s post office box. The recipient then takes the notice to the service desk to receive his medication.

Skehan, who arrived for work at about 5 a.m., often sorted the incoming mail, according to police. Asselin said that Skehan would observe the packages sent from the VHA, scan them but not place the notices in the addressee’s post office box. Skehan then allegedly would take the medications from the post office when he went home later in the afternoon.

The chief said that in once instance, Skehan opened a box from the VHA that was to be delivered to a rural route customer and emptied the medication from the bottle. The empty bottle then was placed back in the damaged box and delivered by the carrier.

Police have identified three victims.

Skehan was arrested at around 2 p.m. Monday and charged with two counts of unlawful possession of Schedule W drugs because he reportedly possessed 26 oxycodone and eight hydrocodone pills that were not his. They belonged to a family member, according to police, and were not removed from the post office.

All of the charges are Class C felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

Asselin said Tuesday that police believe the stolen medications were for Skehan’s personal use and were not being diverted to others. He said that Skehan was cooperative with police.

He was arrested and posted $2,500 unsecured bail at the Houlton Police Department.

Asselin said that he could not comment on whether or not there would be any federal charges forthcoming or as to Skehan’s present status as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.

Postal officials were not available for comment Tuesday evening.

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