SALT LAKE CITY — A judge has sentenced a 36-year-old man to 2 ½ years in federal prison for defrauding the Postal Service of almost $200,000 in stamps.

Ivan Sanchez recently pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft of government property. A grand jury indicted Sanchez Dec. 19 for what Assistant U.S. Attorney Lake Dishman described in a court document as an “elaborate ruse over the past 10 years.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby on Wednesday sentenced Sanchez to the prison term, with credit for time served. Sanchez was arrested in California in January, so he will spend about two years in prison.

Sheby recommended Sanchez serve the sentence at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Lompoc, California, site. The man also will face three years of probation after his release.

The indictment said Sanchez would have fraudulent checks printed with a legitimate local address and then write checks at nearby post offices for numerous 100-stamp rolls.

“Because he has a local address, the post office will accept what it thinks is a valid, in-state check,” Dishman wrote in an April 7 court document. “After a few days, he leaves the state with thousands of dollars worth of postal stamps. He then fences the postal stamps and repeats the cycle by targeting the post offices in a different location.”

The scheme was performed at post offices in Utah, California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Texas.

U.S. postal agents arrested Sanchez in California Jan. 21 and federal marshals in February returned him to the Davis County Jail in Utah to be held pending trial.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

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