by CHRIS ROGERS
Former Winona Postmaster Sherri Jo Genkinger pled guilty in federal court last month to destroying three postcards entrusted to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The crime is a felony and carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison. Under a plea deal, prosecutors recommended she be sentenced to probation and community service.
Genkinger was suspended last October and later removed amid an investigation by the USPS Office of the Inspector General, a law enforcement branch dedicated to detecting crimes by Postal Service employees.
Last year, Winona Police Department officials stated they had received a “boatload” of complaints of mail theft, including a stolen lottery ticket. Over recent years, multiple Winonans reported stories of suspected mail theft, including stolen checks, to this newspaper.
Asked if mail theft is still an issue at the Winona Post Office, new Winona Postmaster Dale Zintman said that, following articles about Genkinger’s suspension, Winonans have approached him with complaints of mail theft that occurred in previous years, but that he has not received any complaints of recent, suspected mail theft.
Federal prosecutors charged Genkinger this May with one count of the delay or destruction of mail. According to court records, Genkinger admitted to destroying three postcards that were in the mail sometime last summer, between June 1 and July 31, 2018. She pled guilty on June 12, 2019.
In October, a federal judge is scheduled to sentence Genkinger. A plea agreement between Genkinger and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota advised the judge that Genkinger’s offense and her lack of criminal history falls into a category where federal sentencing guidelines suggest a zero- to six-month prison sentence. On the one hand, the plea deal recommends heightening that sentence because Genkinger “abused a position of public trust in a manner that significantly facilitated the commission or concealment” of her crime, but on the other hand, it recommends waiving a stiffer punishment because, the deal states, Genkinger has accepted responsibility for her crime and agreed to cooperate with investigators. As part of the deal, prosecutors agreed to seek a sentence of probation and community service. The plea deal bars Genkinger from future employment with the USPS.
The former postmaster’s actual sentence is up for a judge to decide.
Staff at the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to answer questions about the case and the plea deal, saying prosecutors would not comment until Genkinger is sentenced.