Former Parachute postal worker gets probation on drug charge |

Former Parachute postal worker gets probation on drug charge

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Leta May McDaniel

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” A former Parachute postal worker who stole prescription drugs from mail heading to veterans got two years of probation for a drug possession charge.

District Judge Daniel Petre sentenced Leta May McDaniel, 29, of DeBeque, to probation under a deferred judgment and sentence. McDaniel must also do 40 hours of community service, pay costs and fees and undergo drug and alcohol abuse evaluation. She might also be required to write a letter of apology.

She had pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of prescription medication.

“Your addictions caused you to do some things that as a clean and sober person you were not doing,” Petre said. “But you did them nonetheless and there are consequences.”

Attorneys didn’t object to the probation department’s recommendation for the sentence.

Deputy District Attorney Ed Veronda said he didn’t think more jail time was called for. He said, “The only thing that elevates this case beyond just a drug addict with a drug problem was the fact that she was a postal employee.”

Public Defender James Conway said, “She’s been remorseful throughout. She’s been very cooperative with the investigation. She’s lost her job, of course, and she does have a federal conviction. … I think she’s a good person who just made a mistake.”

McDaniel pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of theft of mail by a postal employee and received a sentence of two years of probation on Aug. 27.

McDaniel said she’s been clean for more than 10 months and got a restaurant job three months ago from a longtime friend despite difficulties finding any jobs after her Jan. 28 arrest. She said she spilt up with her husband and is taking care of her kid.

“I’m very sorry about this whole thing, and I just want the chance to make things right,” she said.

Petre said, “I’m counting on the fact that you have learned from this and you are aware of what you have at stake.”

Authorities believe McDaniel, who was a rural route carrier for the Parachute Post Office, took Vicodin and methadone from mail coming from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Grand Junction.

A USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) special agent in charge said the allegations came to light after a number of citizens ” most of them veterans ” realized they weren’t receiving all their medications.

One Parachute man told investigators he’d lost more than 500 morphine tablets prescribed for his pain from terminal cancer, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Others also noticed missing medication and envelopes that looked like they were tampered with.

The OIG said it caught McDaniel after placing a “test parcel” at her workstation containing a fake Vicodin bottle and a wireless transmitter to notify agents if the envelope was opened. The envelope was addressed somewhere outside McDaniel’s delivery area. She brought it on her route anyway, opened it two minutes later and took the fake Vicodin, the affidavit says.

The OIG said it found Vicodin, methadone and hypodermic needles in her car. McDaniel admitted to stealing prescription medications from the mail for about a year, investigators said.

McDaniel worked at the Parachute Post Office from January 2001 until being placed on leave Dec. 10 of last year and subsequently resigning.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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