Couple sentenced to probation, drug treatment for stealing Christmas mail

Jerzy Shedlock

Two Anchorage residents were sentenced Thursday in federal court for stealing mail from up to 100 mailboxes during the 2013 holiday season.

James Joseph Baehm Jr., 47, and Melody Baehm, 41, stole the mail just before Christmas 2013, according to the Alaska U.S. Attorney's Office. Anchorage police arrested the Baehms, who are married according to federal court documents, in the early morning hours of Dec. 22 in the upper Hillside area of South Anchorage. They'd been stealing mail from neighborhood mailboxes.

An Anchorage police officer had been tipped off that a small black vehicle had been spotted on the Hillside near mailboxes where rifled mail was found on the ground the next morning. The officer located and pulled over a black sedan she observed on the corner of Springhill and Abbott roads; she saw several packages in the car's backseat on approach, according to a federal complaint.

More mail littered the passenger side floor near Melody's feet, the complaint says. James tried to claim the mail was hers, but the officer saw the items were addressed to other people.

Melody offered at least two scenarios for the stolen parcels to arresting officers: She said she'd found them in the trunk of a rental car. She later said she woke up in the car and found herself in a wooded area with her husband gone. When he returned, he told her he'd been "checking the mail," the complaint says.

The Baehms both admitted to participating in the thefts in an interview with a postal inspector. The investigation found the two thieves stole $2,000 worth of checks a week before their arrest. Inspectors with the U.S. Postal Service identified between 80 and 100 victims whose mail had been taken.

"James stated that he took all mail out of any mailbox that had mail in it but they were primarily interested in going through greeting cards with the hope of finding cash or gift cards," the complaint says.

Federal District Court Judge Timothy Burgess sentenced both of the Baehms to five years of supervised probation. They're further required to spend six months at a halfway house or residential drug treatment facility.

"The court found that each defendant has a serious heroin addiction that must be addressed if they are to successfully re-enter the community" and submit evaluations to determine the extent of their substance abuse problems, the attorney's office said.

The judge also ordered them to pay $1,850 in restitution to a local credit union and perform 400 hours of community work service.

Although neither of the Baehms received any active jail time, they have been in federal custody since their arrest last year. And both face several pending state cases involving felony and misdemeanor theft charges.

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