Letter carrier caught stealing mail, pleads guilty

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A "guilty" plea in the case of a Richmond postal worker who was caught on tape stealing mail. Friday, 46-year-old James Lankford appeared in federal court for a sentencing hearing.

As part of a plea agreement Lankford will not spend time behind bars. He will be on supervised probation for five years; he must also pay a $3,000 fine, and make restitution to known victims.

For more than a decade Lankford served as a letter carrier at the Bellevue Branch Post Office on Chamberlayne Avenue in Richmond. But he recently resigned as part of a plea agreement.

In April 2009, an investigation was launched against Lankford. Agents say Lankford is seen on undercover surveillance video -- ripping open customer mail and stealing the contents. He got away with cash, gift cards, and electronics. He was arrested in February of this year. Some customers who use the Bellevue Branch call the crime "outrageous."

"It really hurts the integrity of the post office. You expect your letter carrier to be bring your mail…be honest -- a credible person," said Anthony Rhainey, postal customer.

According to court documents Lankford is a military veteran. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1998. It also states he suffers from anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. And that he has no other "significant criminal offense."

"It's been a very difficult time for the family. They want to get through this and move on with their lives and that what he plans to do today," said Lankford's attorney Elliot Bender.

Lankford's attorney would not talk about why his client stole mail he was entrusted to deliver.

"It's kind of discouraging when you hear this," said postal customer Laura Harnish.

Investigators say there are at least three known victims who lost as much as $658 due to Lankford's criminal conduct. Again Lankford pled guilty to one felony count of destruction of mail. A mail theft charge was dropped as part of a plea agreement.

NBC12 reached out to the Richmond district post office for comment on the story and was told, quote: "These incidents are not common and that the majority of postal workers do an outstanding job."

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.