TAMPA — The sun had set. Gloom of night neared.
But U.S. Postal Service fill-in carrier Ana Maria Villarreal, 29, still had about 2,000 pieces of mail left to deliver one day last November. On the job just six months, she didn't want to get in trouble for returning it all to the Wimauma Post Office.
So the Ruskin woman loaded the materials into seven garbage bags and dumped them in an apartment complex trash bin, she admitted in a federal plea agreement filed this week.
Someone noticed and reported the Nov. 7 incident.
She apologized when confronted the next day by federal agents. Unauthorized destruction of mail is a crime.
"I got worried and didn't know what else to do," she told the agency's Office of Inspector General in a written statement. "There was so much mail that day and I did not want to get in trouble for not delivering everything or getting back on time."
She resigned Nov. 14 "for personal reasons," said Enola Rice, Postal Service spokeswoman.
The discarded materials were recovered and forwarded to their proper destinations, according to the court record.
About 100 pieces were described as first-class mail.
"Ms. Villarreal's actions are certainly not indicative of the many dedicated men and women who provide secure mail delivery to our customers at over 152 million addresses," Rice said.
Carriers are supposed to deliver all mail daily or get help from another carrier to do so.
Villarreal was a "rural carrier associate," a noncareer position that covers vacancies for regular rural carriers.
Neither she nor her attorney returned calls for comment. She has no prior criminal record in Florida.
She is expected to enter a guilty plea at a hearing Sept. 4. The crime is punishable by a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,.000.
News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.