GARNER | A Leland man accused of taking items -- including checks and gift cards -- from the mailboxes of rural Hancock County residents has been given a suspended 25-year prison sentence. 

Carl Douglas Werstein, 36, was put on probation for five years during his sentencing on Jan. 9. He was ordered to complete all recommended substance abuse and mental health treatment recommendations. 

A $750 fine was suspended. One misdemeanor count of third-degree theft and one misdemeanor count of fourth-degree theft were dismissed through a plea bargain. 

Between December 2017 and March 18, 2018, Werstein allegedly stole from 12 different mailboxes — sometimes multiple times. 

Christmas cards, a copper cooker, new Asics shoes, checks and gift cards were among the items Werstein was accused of taking. 

Law enforcement said the stolen items ranged from less than $100 in value to $995, including several worth more than $200.

Werstein was sent to prison in 2002 for Cerro Gordo County convictions of first-degree theft, third-degree burglary and forgery, according to online court records. He's had no other felony convictions in Iowa until now. 

Before Werstein's sentencing, two relatives and a woman he did yard work for sent letters to District Court Judge Gregg Rosenbladt asking for leniency. 

The letter from his mother, Peggy Werstein, states her son has five children and was experiencing financial difficulties and depression at the time he was stealing from mailboxes. 

She wrote that she wasn't making excuses for him, but was hoping the judge would "give Carl another chance to turn his life around and be here for his children." 

Werstein also received a suspended five-year prison sentence in Winnebago County after pleading guilty to felony conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to deliver marijuana. 

When officers were conducting a search warrant on March 18 at the Leland residence Werstein shared with Melissa C. Albertson, 31, they found marijuana, a scale and multiple forms of paraphernalia, court documents state. 

Officers also found records of conversations on both their cell phones indicating they were buying and selling marijuana locally. 

Albertson was given a deferred judgment and probation last year for conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to deliver marijuana.

North Iowa's mugshots of 2018

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