Investigators: 'Extremely lazy' mailman buried thousands of letters

BELFAIR, Wash. - Caught burning mail he was supposed to deliver in 2010, Richard Farrell put himself forward as a changed man.

Farrell's attorney described the Hood Canal contract mail carrier as "genuinely remorseful" and ready to get "his life back on track."

For burning or stealing thousands of letters, Farrell, now 47, was sentenced to 120 hours of community service and three years on probation. His probation was cut short late last year after authorities determined he didn't need government supervision any longer.

Now, though, investigators contend they missed the bulk of Farrell's thefts while examining his Belfair property in 2010. According to court papers, thousands of letters previously missed by investigators were found buried on his property during a recent search.

Agents with the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General's Office searched Farrell's home on March 15 and seized 159 postal tubs filled with letters, according to recently unsealed court documents. While an exact count isn't offered, Farrell previously packed about 220 letters into each tub found at his property; if he remained true to form, investigators may have recovered more than 35,000 letters and packages.

Farrell, who was fired from the Postal Service after the 2010 thefts were discovered, has not yet been charged with any additional thefts. Investigators writing the court for permission to search his home suggest Farrell stole the mail prior to being fired, and has held onto it since.

Previously faulted by prosecutors for "extreme laziness," Farrell went to work for the Postal Service in 1991 as a contract mail delivery driver, a role he continued until his misconduct came to light in 2010.

The investigation was launched after other employees found a load of letters Farrell was to deliver dumped in a recycling bin. Investigators followed Farrell on a route, watching as he spent his day at a tavern before taking the mail to his home and burning it in a fire pit. A search of Farrell's residence at the time uncovered nearly 8,000 letters.

Farrell, it turned out, had no malicious reason for keeping the mail. In a phone interview with KOMO News, Farrell admitted he just didn't want to do the work.

"Just because I was lazy and I became a not very good employee. I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible," Farrell said. "I became drinking and everything else and I became complacent and I just didn't really care anymore."

"His conduct reflects extreme laziness and a complete lack of consideration for the customers that he serviced," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods told the court then. "Farrell repeatedly made the decision that he would rather spend his work hours not working, covering up his crime by stoking a fire pit with the very mail that he was supposed to be delivering."

Writing the court in 2011, Farrell's attorney noted his client, who'd subsisted for 19 years working for the government, also had fallen far, far behind in his taxes and lost interest in work. Coincidentally, Farrell had hung on to tax-related mail meant for 412 other people.

Initially sentenced to probation, that oversight was removed in October after Farrell's federal probation officer told the court Farrell no longer needed to be watched.

According to a recently unsealed search warrant affidavit, Postal Service investigators aren't quite done with Farrell.

On March 12, a Postal Service employee living with Farrell told the Fox Island Post Office postmaster she had seen Farrell and two other people burying mail in a five-foot by 30-foot trench, a Postal Service agent told the court. The woman's report was forwarded to investigators, who interviewed her two days later.

The woman told investigators one of Farrell's associates used a backhoe to dig the trench, which the men then filled with mail Farrell had been storing in sheds on the property, the agent said in the search warrant affidavit. The men then covered the hole with dirt.

According to the agent's affidavit, the woman said she confronted Farrell about the buried mail. Farrell purportedly told her he was getting rid of five-years worth of mail, and to keep quiet about it.

The agent noted the sheds on Farrell's property - where he is now alleged to have hidden thousands of letters - were not searched in 2010.

The woman called investigators at 6:30 a.m. the day after she was interviewed to say she told Farrell she had gone to authorities. Agents searched the property the hours later after obtaining a search warrant.

Agents recovered 117 empty postal tubs from the property, as well as the 159 filled tubs, according to court papers. Farrell does not appear to have been arrested in the matter.

Farrell said it's important to note that the mail he burned or buried were "flat rate" pieces of mail, such as fliers and what many might consider junk mail. He claims he didn't throw out first class mail -- that he delivered, then went to the bar.
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