OWENSBORO, Ky. -- On the popular sitcom "Seinfeld," fictitious letter carrier Newman hid bags of mail in Jerry's basement storage locker rather than deliver it.
Real life mailman William "Brent" Morse of Dawson Springs in western Kentucky stashed his in his dead mother's house and a rented storage unit -- at least 44,900 pieces of it.
"He wanted to speed up his route," said Capt. Craig Patterson, a Dawson Springs officer who arrested Morse last year. "I think he was lazy."
Morse, who had been a letter carrier for five years, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. to six months in jail followed by six months' home incarceration for destroying, hiding and delaying the delivery of U.S. mail.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for him to get a two-year sentence, but McKinley gave him less because he didn't steal from the mail and only a few of the 250 mail recipients on his route suffered financial losses.
McKinley also ordered him to pay $14,808 in restitution to residents, a bank and two other businesses for their losses. He had pleaded guilty in December and was sentenced last week. The sentence was announced Tuesday.
U.S. Postal Inspector Adel Valdes, an agency spokesman, said the post office doesn't rank such crimes but "this was a big one."
The New York Post reported in March that a Long Island letter carrier had been charged with throwing about 1,000 pieces of mail into trash bins. In Australia, The Age in Victoria reported last year that a carrier for Australia Post was charged after about 10,000 undelivered pieces of mail were found in his bedroom.
Morse's lawyer, federal public defender Patrick Bouldin, said that his client was going through a divorce, was responsible for picking up his children during the day, and would "store" his mail if he hadn't finished delivering it.
"It's not that he was stealing anything from it," said Bouldin, who added that the missing mail represented only a fraction of the 1.2 million pieces Morse was responsible for delivering.
Valdes said the scheme was uncovered when the owner of the storage business found the door ajar, saw U.S. Postal Service crates inside and called police and the postmaster.
But Patterson said police first found the mail in the mother's house, and that Morse initially insisted that it was the only mail he had stashed.
Morse also was convicted of theft in state court for cashing about $31,000 in Social Security checks made out to his deceased mother, Patterson said, and placed in diversion for five years, according to the Hopkins County commonwealth's attorney's office.
U.S. Attorney David Hale said Morse dumped mail for two years, ending in March 2013, and destroyed at least 1,000 more pieces. Most were advertising circulars, Valdes (AT)said.
Sue Brennan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, said, "We take the sanctity of the U.S. mail very seriously, and the Postal Inspection Service and the Office of Inspector General prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who violates that trust."
The National Association of Letter Carriers called Morse's case "an unfortunate, isolated incident" and said virtually all mail is delivered as intended.
Hale said the the mail recovered from Morse has been delivered to its intended recipients. Mayor Jenny Sewell said she could have done without one of the letters she finally received.
It was a bill from her dentist, for work she had a year ago.