Desperate to feed a drug addiction, a former U.S. Postal Service worker admitted on Friday to stealing mail to find cash and painkillers.
Tyler E. Blazina, 36, of Billings, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Billings to theft of mail by a Postal Service employee.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr said the Postal Service Office of Inspector General began an investigation last fall after getting reports of missing parcels of prescription medication sent by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The packages arrived at the Billings Processing and Distribution Center but were never scanned after that point.
While watching the center on Oct. 24, law enforcement officers saw Blazina, whose duties included sorting mail, rummage through bins of parcels in an area where no processing was occurring. They also saw him put nine first-class letters and a small package into his pockets and socks, Fehr said.
When agents approached Blazina at the end of his shift, he gave them the letters from his pockets and socks and also provided an additional 14 letters and two parcels from his locker.
The packages were unopened but each appeared to contain pill bottles.
Blazina said he had a serious opiate addiction, ran out of cash and in desperation stole mail for money and pills.
Blazina looked primarily for hydrocodone, a painkiller, Fehr said. Blazina estimated he took a total of 100 pieces of mail. Agents confirmed he had stolen at least 60 pieces of mail.
Blazina faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Blazina also is serving a three-year deferred sentence in state District Court from Stillwater County for drunken driving and criminal endangerment in 2009.
Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard C. Tallman, of Seattle, is hearing the case and set sentencing for May 13. He continued Blazina's release on conditions.
Montana's Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull removed himself from the case.