SAN DIEGO — A former U.S. Postal Service mail carrier was sentenced in federal court Friday for stealing mail from customers on her Santee postal route.

According to U.S. attorney Andrew Haden’s office, 44-year-old Tracy Rumley of El Cajon was ordered to five years of probation and 200 hours of community service.

This follows an incident on Nov. 21, 2022 when an off-duty San Diego Police detective saw a woman in a hooded sweatshirt open a communal mailbox at his apartment complex in Santee. According to court documents, the woman was seen removing multiple pieces of mail.

As the detective approached the woman, she closed the mailbox and fled in a White Nissan, said the attorney’s office. After getting the license plate of the vehicle, the detective determined that Rumley resided at the same address as listed for the vehicle registration and referred the matter to the USPS.

Rumley — who had been placed on administrative leave from her employment at the Santee Post Office earlier that month — was ultimately terminated by the Postal Service on Dec.12, 2022.

USPS Inspectors executed a search at Rumley’s home on Dec. 21, 2022. Authorities found more than 1,500 pieces of mail in her residence, including gift cards, credit cards and even several Christmas presents that had all been stolen from nearly 900 customers along her mail delivery route in Santee, the attorney’s office explained,

Inspectors also found the keys she was given as a mail carrier to access mailboxes. The keys were reported to be hidden in a potted plant within her bedroom, court documents show.

In her plea agreement, Rumley admitted that she kept those keys after being placed on administrative leave even though she was not authorized to do so. She also admitted to using them to continue to steal mail even after she was terminated.

Sentencing papers quoted several statements given by the victims of Rumley’s crimes. A child who had been impacted by the woman’s theft commented, “I felt shocked because I got robbed by the mail lady.”

When imposing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino said, “Stealing mail is not the way to go. You will be caught, and you will be prosecuted.”