A former postal carrier faces up to five years in prison after admitting he hid thousands of pieces of undelivered mail at his home over a decade.
Gary Wayne Collins, 63, of Forest City, pleaded guilty in federal court in Asheville on Tuesday to unlawfully destroying, detaining and delaying U.S. mail, which also carries a $250,000 fine. His sentencing date has not been set.
Collins, who is free pending his sentencing, declined comment when reached by the Observer on Wednesday.
Collins delivered mail in rural parts of Cleveland and Rutherford counties, court records show.
In May 2014, postal agents found at least 1,800 pieces of undelivered mail hidden in Collins’ home and vehicle, according to court documents. The undelivered mail included 134 pieces of First-Class mail dating as far back as April 2000, records show.
Postal agents also found more undelivered mail in a partially collapsed outbuilding on Collins’ property – so much mail that the Postal Service used a backhoe to remove two full-sized dump truck loads from the outbuilding. That mail could not be salvaged due to extensive weather damage and had to be destroyed, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte said.
Collins admitted in court that he took the undelivered mail to his home over about 10 years.
The break in the case came in April 2014 when someone saw Collins place several tubs of mail behind a Dumpster in Shelby and notified the local postmaster.
The postmaster determined that the recovered tubs contained deliverable mail for addresses on Collins’ route,. He was a U.S. Postal Service rural carrier at the time, records show.
When postal agents interviewed Collins two days later, Collins said he never intended to dump any mail and that he left the tubs near the Dumpster only temporarily, intending to return later to pick them up. Collins also told the agents he had never thrown away any mail or stored any at his home, prosecutors said.
The mail recovered in April 2014 totaled 1,513 pieces, including 628 pieces of First-Class mail and three parcels, according to court documents.
Agents then found the additional mail at Collins’ home and outbuilding.