Federal agents unearthed 2,129 pieces of first-class mail last year in the home and car of a St. Petersburg postal carrier who now admits in court papers that he stole "countless" parcels and envelopes because he needed money.
"I only did it to make ends meet," John M. Doyle Jr., 38, told investigators.
How much did he get? Prosecutors aren't saying. Doyle was charged Monday, and his plea agreement, filed Tuesday, doesn't specify a restitution amount.
If he follows through on his promised guilty plea, an estimate would likely come out at sentencing.
The U.S. Postal Service hired him in 2013 after 14 years of service in the Marine Corps, which included multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. That year, his Facebook page showed him and his wife holding a brand new baby girl.
He earned $15.30 an hour as a city carrier associate and last worked out of the Midtown Station post office, delivering mail to ZIP code 33705, agency spokeswoman Enola C. Rice said.
Doyle was part of what the Postal Service calls its flexible work force. In 15 months of employment, he had a hand in the mail at five other post offices, the court paper said.
Pinellas County lawyer Joseph Saunders, who lives near Eckerd College, said his family was among the victims. He learned of Doyle's name from investigators.
"It's hard to know about mail you don't get — because you don't get it," said Saunders, who is married to Kathy Saunders, a freelance correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times.
Saunders said his wife was teasing her mother about missing a birthday two years ago. But the mother had sent a gift card. That prompted questions. Neighbors were missing things, too.
"We called the Postal Service," he said. "I think they were already onto it. They were very interested and attentive right away.
"They set up a sting. What they did is they mailed us a birthday card with, I think, a Target gift card. And they then got film of the guy in his postal uniform cashing the card."
Investigators for the agency's Office of Inspector General confronted Doyle with theft allegations in August 2014. He resigned that month.
He said he had been stealing mail three or four times a week since December 2013, they reported.
"Much, if not all, of the mail matter stolen by Doyle was selected by him because Doyle believed it contained money, gift cards or other items of monetary value," the plea agreement states.
Doyle could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Under terms of the agreement, he is expected to plead guilty to a single count of theft of mail.
He has no prior criminal record in Florida.
Rather, he has a lengthy military record: from Jan. 21, 1999, to Jan. 12, 2013. He attained the rank of staff sergeant, with military occupational specialties of rifleman, infantry unit leader and recruiter.
His deployments included operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Determined Response (after the attack on the USS Cole), Iron Magic exercises and humanitarian assistance in East Timor,
But while ribbons and medals marked his military experiences, criminal charges now mar his short-lived postal career.
The popularity of gift cards has tempted others. Nationally, in the past five years, about 3,000 U.S. Postal Service carriers, clerks and truckers have been convicted of charges relating to mail theft. They represent less than 1 percent of the postal workforce.
Rice wanted customers to know most carriers are trustworthy.
"The actions of this employee are not representative of the dedicated men and women who provide excellent service to our customers," she said.
"The Postal Service vigorously investigates reports of missing mail so that we can ensure the sanctity of the mail."
Times staff writer Mary Jane Park and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Patty Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3382.