A THIEVING Wigan postie plundered hundreds of mail order DVDs and computer games to flog on the internet, a court heard.
And as a judge sent down disgraced Gary Balderson for two years for what he called a “gross breach of trust,” it emerged that the Royal Mail has paid out a staggering £3.5m to Amazon in compensation for items lost in the post in just two years.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that 43-year-old Balderson made at least £20,000 from pilfering almost 1,500 items from customers and selling them on eBay.
John Gibson, prosecuting, told the hearing that investigations revealed that Balderson, who had been a postman for 22 years, had sold most of the items on eBay within 24 and 48 hours of their being posted and stolen.
When quizzed, Balderson admitted selling items via the internet given to him by a game store employee and he then began stealing items from the mail to sell in the same way.
Mr Gibson said that the retail value of the 1,439 items stolen from the Royal Mail was estimated at £53,333.
Balderson, a family man who has no previous convictions, admitted two theft offences, converting criminal property and attempted theft, and was jailed for two years. Judge Norman Wright told Balderson, of Baucher Road, Worsley Mesnes, that the offences represented “a gross breach of trust”.
Mr Gibson told Liverpool Crown Court that investigations by the Royal Mail began on March 1 last year because of a high number of opened postal packets were being discovered by postmen at the Wigan delivery office.
In just under three months a total of 56 packets were received either open or with their contents removed and 95 per cent of the losses occurred in one of the six postcode areas.
Early morning surveillance on April 4 showed Balderson opening various postal packages, mainly from Amazon, HMV, Play.Com and Indigo Starfish, examining the contents and putting them back.
However, he put three on top of his delivery frame and later removed information from one of them and put the content, a Star Wars console game, into his own delivery pouch and he was approached and cautioned. Also in the pouch were two opened HMV and Amazon packages.
When his home was searched about 100 DVDs were found along with other items of mail including a box set of Royal Mint coins. When interviewed Balderson admitted opening 10 to 12 packages a day and stealing two to three on a daily basis over three months.
His eBay account revealed a total of 1,764 sales over the previous two years, initially of clothing and football memorabilia but later DVDs and console games.
Steven Swift, defending, said that Balderson was very contrite about his behaviour and the impact it was having on his family. His offending began because of financial debts “but it clearly spiralled out of control”.
After the hearing a Royal Mail spokesman said: “Royal Mail has a zero tolerance approach to any dishonesty and that stance is shared by the overwhelming majority of postmen and women, who are honest and hardworking and who do all they can to protect the mail and deliver it safely. It is a criminal offence to tamper with or delay the delivery of mail and anyone caught doing so will face serious disciplinary measures. Royal Mail will always seek to prosecute the tiny minority of people who abuse their position of trust.
“The safety and security of mail is of the utmost importance to this business and Royal Mail will not allow the actions of any individual to damage the good reputation of our thousands of hard-working postmen and women.”
“Royal Mail customers should be confident in our services and systems, but where we are alerted to problems, either through our own stringent checks or from information supplied by our customers, we always take decisive action to investigate.”