James Ludwig is accused of stealing gift cards and cash from holiday mail

ROCHESTER — A plea hearing for a Fairport man accused of stealing gift cards and cash from holiday mail while working as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Victor was postponed Wednesday at the request of his attorney.

Federal Public Defender Anne Burger told U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Wolford that her client, James Ludwig, 45, had just been discharged Tuesday from Norris Addiction Treatment, where he had been dealing with an opioid addiction.

Burger said she did not feel comfortable proceeding with the plea hearing as Ludwig was taking anxiety medication and earlier that day had received a monthly injection of Vivitrol, a drug used to manage opioid dependence.

Ludwig was charged in a criminal complaint Jan. 11 with theft of mail by a postal employee. He is accused of stealing gift cards — particularly Wegmans gift cards — and cash from mail he was entrusted to deliver during the Christmas holiday season.

He was charged following an investigation by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, which was notified in late December of multiple complaints of missing mail from customers along a certain route covered by the post office in a northern part of Victor. Records showed Ludwig as the assigned carrier for that route at the time of the missing mail.

According to the complaint, one victim kept the gift card identification number — which allowed investigators to check the card status with the merchant, who reported it had been redeemed at a Rochester area store. Security reports from the store identified the individual and matched him to a residential address in Victor.

During the investigation, OIG agents conducted surveillance of Ludwig while he carried out his duties as a letter carrier. They reported he was electronically tracked to deviate from his route to the residential address of the person who redeemed the stolen gift card they were able to identify.

An investigator planted outgoing mail with two $25 Wegmans gift cards in a mailbox belonging to one of the victims. Wegmans Loss Prevention reported the cards being used on separate dates in January. The investigator alleges store surveillance footage showed Ludwig, in his postal uniform, at a cash register at the time the cards were redeemed.

It is further alleged Ludwig was seen on camera snorting lines of a white powdery substance while on duty in his U.S. Postal Service government vehicle.

Burger told the court Ludwig was being screened for placement in a halfway house. She said she did not know if anxiety of appearing in court or an interaction of Ludwig’s medications was impacting his judgment, but she wanted additional time.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Craig Gestring said based on the facts presented, he could not object.

Wolford informed Ludwig that one of the things she does in accepting a plea is ask a series of questions that include information on the defendant’s background and what, if any, medications one may be taking so she can be sure a plea is entered in a knowing, voluntary and intelligent matter.

She agreed to adjourn the plea hearing to April 27.