Tuesday, March 5, 2013
A postal worker who delivered mail in Hood River and lives in The Dalles was recently convicted for drug-related crimes in both communities but might soon be back on the job.
“It is a bit of a concern that somebody who has two felony convictions could be handling our mail — that gives me a little pause,” said Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley.
Aaron Helseth, 37, pleaded guilty Feb. 25 in Wasco County Circuit Court to possession of meth and shoplifting from Rite Aid in The Dalles. He was directed by Judge Janet Stauffer to pay $250 in restitution to the store and placed on 18 months of probation. During that time, he is to undergo a drug and alcohol abuse evaluation and complete any treatment that is ordered by his probation officer. He is to stay away from bars and people who are drinking or using drugs.
On Feb. 25, Helseth also pleaded guilty in Hood River County Circuit Court to similar theft and drug charges. He was sentenced to one year of probation with the same conditions imposed as in Wasco County.
The Chronicle received information from an anonymous source last week that Helseth was on federal worker’s compensation and not an active employee at the time he was committing crimes.
Peter Hass, spokesperson for the Portland District of the U.S. Postal Service, which includes Hood River and The Dalles, declined to comment on the workman’s compensation issue. He did confirm that Helseth is employed in Hood River and on “non-duty” status so he does not receive regular wages.
“I really can’t discuss anything further because this is a personnel matter,” said Hass. “Obviously, the employee’s right to privacy has to be honored.”
He would not comment specifically about how the agency will deal with Helseth handling letters and other confidential information mailed by citizens and businesses when he has been convicted of theft. However, he said all employees of the agency are “expected to conduct themselves during work and outside work hours in a manner that reflects well on the Postal Service.”
“The vast majority of our employees are outstanding citizens in their communities so when something like this happens, it’s an anomaly,” said Hass.
Nisley said many times people who use meth resort to identity theft to come up with money to feed their habit. He said the postal service needs to make sure there is a system in place to ensure that mail does not fall into unsafe hands.
Helseth reportedly started his career with the postal service in 2005 and worked out of The Dalles office before transferring to Hood River in 2010.
He became the subject of a warrant after he failed to appear in Hood River Circuit Court last fall to face accusations that he had stolen items from the Kayak Shed, Doug’s Sports, Gorge Fly Shop, Trellis, Second Wind Sports, The Wearhouse and Big Winds.
In addition, clothing from Kmart in The Dalles was also been recovered from his car during an Oct. 12 search of his vehicle that turned up drug paraphernalia and a brass container that held meth.
Helseth was taken into custody following that discovery and lodged in the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities. He was later released on the condition that he obey all laws while awaiting adjudication of his case.
When Helseth failed to show up for a Hood River court hearing, a warrant was issued for his arrest and Wasco County authorities tracked him down on Nov. 27.
After pulling his vehicle over in The Dalles, Helseth then reportedly led law enforcement officials on a foot chase before being pulled off a fence he was attempting to scale by The Dalles Police Officer Chris Simonds.
Both meth and marijuana were found on Helseth in a subsequent body search and new charges were filed to add to those already pending in Hood River.
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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown visited Hood River Hotel Thursday morning, Sept. 14, discussing economic impacts of the Eagle Creek fire with local business leaders. Attendees included Sen. Chuck Thomsen, Mayor Paul Blackburn, and business representatives from Celilo Restaurant, Double Mountain Brewery and Cascade Locks' The Renewal Workshop. For updates on the fire, stay tuned at www.hoodrivernews.com. Enlarge