GREENEVILLE — A former Fall Branch postal worker who broke into packages and stole prescription pain medication meant for military veterans has agreed to plead guilty to the crime.
Lithia Daugherty was indicted in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in July on one count of delaying or destroying mail. Daugherty agreed to plead guilty to the charge in early October and is scheduled to be sentenced in January.
She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Daugherty has agreed to pay restitution of $90.
According to court records, the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General began an investigation into a series of packages from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that had been opened with medication missing, prior to being delivered to the patients.
Daugherty, who worked as a rural carrier in the Fall Branch post office from May 2004 until March 2013, admitted to breaking into at least six packages since October 2010.
Federal prosecutors said that on March 26, Daugherty opened a package shortly after leaving the post office and took some of the prescription pain pills contained inside.
When Daugherty identified packages likely containing prescriptions, she would scan them as “attempted,” so that the packages would be held at the post office for the customers to pick up. The packages would then be placed in a special drawer, and since Daugherty knew where the key to the drawer was kept, she would open and rifle through the packages while the postmaster was at lunch, according to court records.
According to the plea agreement, Daugherty said she became addicted to pain medication after having surgery 10 years ago. She was unable to obtain pain medication with a valid prescription and started buying pills from street dealers and stealing prescription medication sent in the mail to various patients in and around Fall Branch.
Daugherty told authorities she only took a portion of the pills rather than the entire prescription so that the patients would not be entirely without their medications.