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Former St. Petersburg postal worker gets nine years in prison for theft of Social Security checks

TAMPA — A former U.S. Postal Service mail handler was ordered to serve nine years in prison Wednesday for stealing close to $3 million in Social Security checks from a St. Petersburg mail-processing facility.

Stacy Darnell Mitchell, 48, once worked at the St. Petersburg Processing and Distribution Facility, where over the course of several months in 2012, he stole more than 3,000 checks. Their intended recipients were all Pinellas County residents.

Mitchell, a military veteran, expressed remorse to U.S. District Judge James Moody.

"I want to apologize to the court and to the victims," he said.

He said he is receiving mental health and substance abuse treatment, and has been volunteering in the community while awaiting sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Scruggs said the case was unique in the number of people Mitchell chose to victimize.

"This is one of the most egregious Postal and Social Security theft cases the government has seen," he said. "What's unusual about this case is there were over 3,000 victims. … Mr. Mitchell betrayed his government, and he betrayed his neighbors."

After the thefts, Mitchell gave the checks to Richard Lee Anderson, who distributed them to other people in exchange for a percentage of their face value.

In October 2012, Tampa police recovered more than 200 stolen checks, totaling more than $100,000, from a home in the Highland Pines neighborhood. An analysis of Mitchell's time and attendance records revealed that he was at work in the days immediately before each of the thefts, court records showed.

Anderson admitted to his role in the scheme. He was ultimately sentenced to seven years in federal prison.

A jury convicted Mitchell in January for theft of government property and theft of mail.

In addition to nine years in prison, Judge Moody ordered Mitchell to serve three years of supervised release and pay more than $700,000 in restitution, the amount federal authorities were unable to recover.