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Ex-Idaho City postmaster pleads guilty to misdemeanor theft

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comSeptember 8, 2014 Updated 27 minutes ago

File photo: TERESA BELAU

EILEEN CAPSON — The Idaho World

Teresa Belau, who held the position of postmaster at the Idaho City Post Office for 14 years, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor petit theft in Boise County Court Monday afternoon.

Belau is scheduled to be sentenced by Boise County Magistrate Judge Roger E. Cockerille on Nov. 25. She faces penalties of up to a $1,000 fine, up to a year in jail and up to two years' probation.

In pleading guilty, Belau admitted to taking a gift card from the mail in July 2013 — one that was sent by U.S. postal inspectors as part of an investigation into possible theft at the rural post office. Cockerille told Belau that the U.S. Postal Service may provide a victim impact statement at her sentencing.

In an unusual twist Monday, Boise County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jay Rosenthal objected to Belau entering a plea because he said a ruling on an appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court had not yet been received.

Prosecutors charged Belau with grand theft in December because they believe a gift card fits the state's definition of a "financial transaction card," making the alleged theft a felony rather than a misdemeanor. Cockerille agreed, but District Court Judge Patrick Owen did not.

Prosecutors appealed Owen's decision to the Idaho Supreme Court. They received notice from the Supreme Court Monday afternoon that Owen's ruling was not appealable because it was an oral ruling, not in writing. Boise County Prosecutor Ian Gee said prosecutors would continue to pursue a ruling from the higher court.

Meanwhile, Owen had dismissed the felony charge against Belau. Pending the decision on the appeal, prosecutors filed a misdemeanor charge of petit theft against Belau in July.

Belau confessed in a recorded interview with postal inspectors to taking items from the mail on three occasions, Postal Service special agent Gregory Johnson said in court during a preliminary hearing in January.

Belau worked at the Idaho City Post Office for 18 years; her salary in 2013 was $60,000, according to an online database of postal worker salaries. She held no prior positions with the Postal Service, an agency spokesman said. Belau's employment with the Postal Service ended Jan. 23.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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