A Hesperia post office letter carrier allegedly tossed mail into the Mojave Desert, rather than deliver it.


"Approximately 900 pieces of mail had been discovered," said Mike Cannone, spokesman for the United States Post Office's San Diego postal district. "They were still bundled up in the sequence they were going to be delivered in."


The bundles, post-marked between May 19 and 21, were discovered on September 1 by an Oak Hills resident living on Belmont Street. The mail was reportedly found behind a bush on undeveloped land.


The mail, all of it intended for Oak Hills residents, was still sealed up when discovered, according to Cannone.


"It doesn't appear that identity theft would be an issue at all."


The letter carrier who allegedly did not deliver the mail one day in May on post office Rural Route 5, Tammy Salter, no longer works for the post office. She now faces federal felony mail theft charges.


Salter was a relatively new hire, according to her former boss.


"I don't think she even had two years in service, to be honest," said Hesperia Postmaster Victor Maldonado.


The found mail is being held in evidence, but photocopies of the mail are available to the intended recipients, all of whom have been contacted by the Pasadena postal inspector's office, according to Cannone.


Such incidents are rare, he said, partially because the USPS carefully monitors employees for suspicious behavior.


"I hear about cases like this maybe a couple times a year, where carriers aren't delivering the mail they're supposed to be carrying," Cannone said. "In every post office, there's one-way mirrors, it's called an inspection gallery. You never know when someone's up there."


"It does happen, but not on a yearly basis," Maldonado said. "This is the first time it's happened since I've been here."


And the postal inspectors are helped by customers, who are not shy about letting them know when they think their mail has gone awry.


"And customers aren't bashful about calling us," Cannone said. "If they didn't receive something they were supposed to receive, they let us know."


Post office customers who were hit with late fees or finance charges as result of their mail ending up behind a bush in Oak Hills can get help from the United States Post Office: The USPS's consumer affairs department will write recipients a letter verifying the postal service's role in delaying the mail for those customers in May 2008. Call (858) 674-2670 for more information.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.