A former Coulee Region postal worker has sentenced in federal court to stealing 9,000 pieces of mail.
During a plea hearing in March, Robert Ernstes, 50, of Melrose, told a federal judge he took the mail because "times were tough, money was tight and bills were piling up."
Ernstes was ordered to spend 10 months in prison.
He worked at the downtown La Crosse post office. Federal prosecutors say agents found the stolen mail at his home earlier this year. Most of the mail wasn't opened and some of it dated back to November of 2008.
A Holmen man who mailed cards containing $2 bills to his grandchildren alerted authorities after the cards were delivered, but had been opened and were missing the bills. Ernstes admitted in court to taking money from envelopes he opened.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.