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Published: Tuesday, 5/22/2001

Former mail carrier violates court order, goes to prison

Michael D. Smith ran out of breaks yesterday.

The former mail carrier who claimed for nearly a decade that he couldn't work and collected $190,000 in federal disability pay - while lifting large amounts of weight at local gyms, jogging, and biking - was sent to prison yesterday for two years.

U.S. District Judge James Carr found Smith, 57, guilty of violating a court order after Smith and his new wife honeymooned in the Bahamas without having notified the court.

“You made the plane,” he said. “But you didn't make the connection with [the court]. It's time you begin serving your sentence.”

Last week, Judge Carr sentenced Smith to two years in prison for fraud and ordered him to pay back the money.

But Smith, who claimed he was unable to work after he fell carrying mail in 1985, was released for what probably would have been several weeks or months while the court worked out details of where he would be assigned to serve his time in a federal prison. Under conditions of his pre-sentence release, he wasn't to leave the Toledo area without telling the court.

In fact, Smith said he did just that most of the time, he told Judge Carr yesterday.

He said he notified a pre-sentence release officer each time he went to Pennsylvania to visit family members and asked whether he could drink champagne at his wedding reception.

But when it came to his trip to the Bahamas, Smith said he forgot to ask permission. “There were so many things going on, it slipped my mind,” he said.

A clearly irritated Judge Carr, who earlier had called Smith's testimony about his purported disabilities “in many respects evasive and implausible,” shook his head.

“Sorry, Mr. Smith, I don't believe that,” he said.

He said restrictions on the case limited him to sentencing Smith to two years in prison.

The judge had ruled that the government had proven its case only as far back as 1988 instead of 1985 when Smith's accident occurred and he indicated that Smith should consider himself “fortunate” for that ruling.

“This is one of the very few cases where if I could have given five years, I would have given him five years,” the judge said, ordering him to be taken into custody immediately.

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