FORT MYERS, Fla. (WFLA) – U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Barber announced that he sentenced a United States Postal Service worker to federal prison on Monday for allegedly possessing with the intent to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl.

According to documents, in 2021, Theodore Garlow, 53, from Lehigh Acres, was employed by the USPS as a rural carrier assigned to the Lehigh Acres Post Office.

On Sept. 30, 2021, the USPS Office of Inspector General received information regarding five suspicious parcels that were en route to Garlow’s home address. Authorities said that on the same day, Garlow had sent text messages inquiring about the five packages to the postal carrier assigned to his home’s mail delivery route.

Documents showed that after the postal carrier told Garlow he did not have the packages, Garlow went to the Lehigh Acres Post Office and walked around the building in search of the parcels.

The next day, on Oct. 1, 2021, special agents from USPS OIG went to Garlow’s home with the five “suspicious parcels.” While authorities were at his home, Garlow agreed to speak with the agents and admitted that he went to the post office to find out why they hadn’t been delivered. The 53-year-old then allowed agents to search the packages, which contained pills.

When asked what the pills were, Garlow told officials he believed they were tramadol. He told agents that he had received a text from an unknown number asking him if he wanted to make more money, to which Garlow admitted that he did eventually reply to the message because he “needed money to pay his mortgage and other bills.”

He stated that he then began communicating with an individual for about four months and that the individual instructed Garlow to open a P.O. Box at the post office and a UPS Store.

According to officials, Garlow later admitted to receiving parcels containing what the individual said was tramadol, Percocet, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and another pull for sleep. Once he got ahold of the packages, Garlow counted and separated the bills into baggies, printed out shipping labels, and mailed out the pills.

Officials said he used a spreadsheet detailing the names and addresses that had been provided by the individual to ship out the drugs. He also admitted to receiving about 10 to 15 packages.

During Garlow’s interview, he provided eight crates full of pills and 19 USPS Priority Mail envelopes to the agents. He told the agents that he was paid based on the number of pills being shipped and that he had mailed out more than 200 parcels or envelopes.

Authorities shared that Garlow said he “knew what he was doing was wrong, but needed to make money.”

Once the pills were sent to a forensic laboratory so the contents could be analyzed, it was revealed that a majority of the pills were fentanyl. The analysis also found that some of the pills’ characteristics, including the shape, color, and manufacturer’s markings, were made to look like the controlled substances Garlow thought he was receiving.

On Jan. 10, 2023, Garlow pled guilty and was sentenced to five years in federal prison. The United States Postal Service, along with the Office of Inspector General investigated the case.