A driver who worked as an outside contractor for the U.S. Postal Service has been arrested and charged with stealing a bag of more than $5,000 in cash collected at the Healdsburg Post Office, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.
Christopher Rocha, 50, of Fresno, was charged in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco with one count of theft of government property.
Rocha was arrested by two postal inspectors Tuesday evening after the inspectors watched him pick up a sealed bag of cash from the day's transactions in Healdsburg, watched him throw away some papers at the Santa Rosa Main Post Office dumpster, and then followed his truck to the Postal Service Processing and Distribution Center in San Francisco.
After arresting Rocha in his truck, the inspectors allegedly found more than $5,000 in cash in the pocket of a jacket draped over the driver's seat. The bills had the serial numbers of the bills picked up at the Healdsburg Post Office, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint by Postal Inspector Nicholas Hamner.
Hamner wrote that the investigation began after at least six of the postal money bags, known as registry bags, picked up by Rocha in December and January were not delivered to the San Francisco center.
Rocha worked for an independent trucking company that contracts with the Postal Service. He was assigned to transport mail and registry bags from Sonoma County post offices to the San Francisco center during the holiday season.
Rocha appeared before U.S. Magistrate Sallie Kim in San Francisco on Wednesday and was freed on a $50,000 bond. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 11 before U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero.
Rocha is charged with a single count of theft of government property on Jan. 21. The affidavit claims that in an interview with Hamner and the other two inspectors after his arrest, Rocha waived his right to have a lawyer present and allegedly said he previously stole three or four other registry bags.
Rocha allegedly said he used the money to pay bills and buy drugs and a car, and allegedly said he used drugs before starting work at 5 p.m. on the day of his arrest, according to the affidavit.
The theft charge carries a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison upon conviction.