A $5 lottery ticket cost the former postmaster of Winona her career and her reputation.
Sherri Jo Genkinger, 58, was sentenced last week in federal court to two years of probation and 80 hours of community service for destroying mail.
And she must pay restitution of $5 to the former police officer who complained that a greeting card and lottery ticket he'd sent to his brother had gone missing.
The lottery confirmed that the ticket had been cashed, and surveillance video led to Genkinger's arrest.
Investigators with the U.S. Inspector General's Office found 1,300 pieces of undelivered mail and a bag of "shredded greeting cards" in Genkinger's office after she was relieved of her duties last October.
She admitted that she had opened mail "less than a dozen times" and had taken an unspecified amount of cash.
Genkinger, of Galesville, Wis., had no prior criminal history, rarely drinks, doesn't take illegal drugs and had no history of problems in her 20 years with the U.S. Postal Service, her attorney, Douglas Micko wrote in court papers. She suggested that work stress led her to start destroying mail. As postmaster, Genkinger oversaw 63 employees and made about $6,000 a month.
In May 2018, a retired police officer with experience investigating complaints about missing mail decided to look into complaints of undelivered mail from Winona State University students. He sent his brother a greeting card containing the $5 winning lottery ticket inside. When Genkinger cashed it, she sprang the trap.
When confronted by investigators, prosecutors wrote, "Genkinger recalled finding gift cards, she clarified that she most often found nothing and had only ever taken cash for herself." She said she typically shredded the greeting cards she opened. In a written statement, Genkinger offered no explanation and said she hoped to keep her job.
After her sentencing, John Masters, special agent in charge of the western area field office for the Postal Service's Inspector General's Office, issued a statement saying mail theft by a Postal Service employee is "a very serious matter."
"Unfortunately, Ms. Genkinger decided to betray the public's trust and steal mail from postal customers. Today's sentence sends a clear message that mail theft is a federal crime and carries serious consequences."