Missing birthday card leads to St. Pete mailman's arrest

A former postal worker in St. Petersburg signed a plea deal this week after being accused of stealing nearly 2,400 pieces of mail during an eight-month period.

John Doyle Jr. pleaded guilty to one count of mail theft, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court Tuesday.

According to court documents, between December 2013 and August 2014, Doyle targeted letters that he thought contained "money, gift cards, or other items of monetary value."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service said Doyle mostly worked out of the Midtown Station Post Office and served the area around the 33705 zip code.

That included Joe Saunders' neighborhood near Eckerd College.

"It's surprising and it's sad," Saunders told FOX 13. "A postman is always kind of like a trusted neighbor."

But Saunders said he and his wife realized something was wrong.

"My wife had mentioned to me that she didn't get a birthday card and a gift card from her mom and for every year forever, her mother sent her something," he said.

Saunders called authorities and worked with them to help end Doyle's alleged crime spree.

"The postal investigators set up a sting. What they did is they sent us a gift card in a brightly colored envelope," Saunders explained, adding that when the gift card never arrived, investigators waited for someone to use it. "And they got the video from the store of the postman in his uniform cashing in the card that had been sent."

As part of the plea agreement, Doyle will have to pay restitution, although the exact amount is not revealed in the plea agreement. It's also unclear if Doyle will have to spend any time in prison.

According to court documents, he told special agents, "I only did it to make ends meet."

FOX 13 stopped by Doyle's house. When asked whether he had anything he wanted to say, a woman who answered the door responded, "No, he doesn't."

Saunders said the suspect's actions say plenty.

"This not only is a theft of some money, but it's a real intrusion on people's relationships with family," he said. "You wonder, of all those pieces of mail, how many people still -- most of them, probably the vast majority -- never knew."