By Stan Maddux
LAPORTE — A former United States Postal Service carrier from here has been charged with failing to deliver an estimated 17,000 pieces of mail.
Kristopher Block, 39, of LaPorte, was charged Tuesday in LaPorte Circuit Court with “official misconduct,” a felony, and misdemeanor theft.
According to court documents, the investigation by the U.S Postal Service began when a deputy with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office in February of 2017 discovered more than half of the undelivered mail in a ravine in a wooded area off Wilson Road outside New Buffalo, Mich.
It was later determined the frozen bundles of mail originated from the U.S Post Office branch in LaPorte.
According to court documents, LaPorte Postmaster Phillip Ward determined Block was the carrier assigned to deliver each of the discarded pieces.
Initially, Block denied the allegations. But when shown 150 pieces of the recovered mail, he stated ‘’looks like I’m going to jail,’’ court records say.
Block told investigators he took home the mail he couldn’t deliver before his shift ended and paid a man $50 to burn each bundle.
He said this occurred for several months on a regular basis whenever he fell behind and ran out of time to deliver it, authorities said.
After being questioned, authorities said Block later brought back tubs containing about 6,000 pieces of undelivered mail he still had inside his residence.
Exactly how many pieces were recovered from the ravine were not known because of damage, but the estimate was 11,000, authorities said.
According to court documents, early attempts by investigators to contact the man allegedly paid to burn the mail were not successful.
LaPorte County deputy prosecutor Frank Rodriguez declined comment.
Ward would not say if any of the mail was actually burned, but he did say all of the recovered mail has since been delivered.