U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon on Oct. 14 sentenced a former U.S. Postal Service worker employed at Portland's mail sorting facility to one year in federal prison for stealing more than 400 phones from packages.

Beginning in August 2019, prosecutors say, Rico Alvarez stole over 400 phones that were being mailed out of the facility. According to court documents, Alvarez surreptitiously opened boxes as they passed through his mail sorting station, removed the phones and sent the empty boxes to their intended recipients.

The thefts had gone on for three months, prosecutors say. When Alvarez was caught, he had in his possession more than a dozen stolen phones. According to prosecutors, Alvarez later admitted to stealing high-end phones and selling them for profit.

Alvarez pleaded guilty to theft of mail on July 20, 2020. Today, Simon sentenced him to one year and one day in federal prison, and ordered Alvarez to pay $253,550 in restitution.

In a statement, John D. Masters of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General said that USPS remains "committed to safeguarding the integrity of the U.S. Mail and ensuring the accountability and integrity of U.S. Postal Service employees."

"For over two centuries, the Postal Service has honored its fundamental commitment to protect the sanctity of the U.S. Mail," Masters said. "Mr. Rico Alvarez willfully chose to violate that public trust and his duties. Today's sentencing of Mr. Alvarez demonstrates that theft of U.S. Mail, committed by a Postal Service employee, will not be tolerated and carries serious consequences."