A onetime post office employee in a tiny south-central Minnesota town was indicted Wednesday on charges of stealing and cashing about 80 money orders totaling more than $41,000.

Linda Kay Johnson, 60, of Lewisville, is charged with fraudulently issuing money orders and false entries and reports of money.

Johnson worked as a substitute for the postmaster at the one-person post office in nearby La Salle, said U.S. Postal Service spokesman Pete Nowacki. She would fill in on the postmaster's days off and during vacations and serve the town's 85 or so citizens.

The indictment alleges that Johnson issued the money orders in 2008 from Aug. 9 through Dec. 4. She's also accused of deceiving the Postal Service by making false entries in the office books to cover up the loss.

She resigned from the Postal Service on Dec. 11, 2008, Nowacki said.

If convicted, Johnson faces a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the false-entries count and five years on the charge of fraudulently issuing money orders count.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482