HOULTON, Maine — A former employee of the U.S. Postal Service who was arrested and charged last February after he stole prescription medications that were supposed to be delivered to local residents has successfully reduced the severity of the charges against him.
Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney Kurt Kafferlin said Friday that Joseph Skehan, 58, of Houlton, has adhered to all requirements resulting from a deferred disposition offered to him last year.
Skehan, who worked for the post office for 32 years, was originally charged with theft, unlawful possession of scheduled drugs and stealing drugs. All the charges were Class C felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
Under a plea agreement with the Aroostook County District Attorney’s Office, however, Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter last September sentenced Skehan to 30 days in jail on the theft charge and fined him $350. The stealing drugs charge was dismissed, and disposition on the possession count was deferred, which meant that if Skehan complied with the conditions of his release for one year, he could avoid having a felony on his record.
Kafferlin, who was not involved in the plea negotiations, said Friday that Skehan submitted to drug testing throughout the year, which he passed. He also provided the state with records and reports verifying his compliance with his substance abuse treatment.
The court also took into consideration the fact that Skehan had no previous criminal record and immediately went and apologized to his victims after his arrest.
Those actions led to withdrawal of the felony charge against the defendant in late September. Skehan then pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of scheduled drugs, a misdemeanor charge for which he received an additional $600 fine.
Skehan originally had been charged by the Houlton Police Department with five counts of stealing drugs and two counts of unlawful possession of a schedule W drug. All the crimes occurred while he worked for the postal service, and the thefts took place at the U.S. post office on Court Street in Houlton.
The investigation into missing mail began in July 2010, and Skehan became a suspect that October, according to Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin. Houlton Detective 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.
The chief said that allf the stolen medications were hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller. One of the packages stolen by Skehan turned out to contain vitamins.
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 packages arrived at the post office, they were to be scanned as being delivered and a notice placed in the addressee’s post office box. The recipient was then to take the notice to the service desk to receive his medication.
Skehan, who arrived for work about 5 a.m., often sorted the incoming mail, according to police. Asselin said that Skehan would see the packages sent from the VHA, scan them but not place the notices in the addressee’s post office box. Skehan then would take the medications from the post office when he went home later in the afternoon.
The chief said that in one 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 had 26 oxycodone and eight hydrocodone pills that were not his in his possession when he was arrested. They belonged to a family member, according to police, and were not removed from the post office.