By Shereen Siewert

A 42-year-old Wisconsin Rapids woman will spend 30 months in federal prison for stealing cash, uncashed checks and credit cards from mailboxes in Wausau and other communities.

Prosecutors say the thefts by Shelby Bottensek resulted in a loss of $133,609.

Bottensek pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud and identity theft and was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson, who also ordered Bottensek to pay restitution of $6,353 to victims of her crimes. She was indicted by a grand jury in March.

Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, said Bottensek began stealing mail in August 2019 from residential mailboxes in 13 Wisconsin communities including, among others, Amherst, Wisconsin Rapids, Waupaca, Port Edwards, Nekoosa, Necedah, Plover, Portage, Wausau, Friendship, Janesville and Westfield. 

Bottensek opened and sorted through 361 pieces of stolen mail from 170 victims in an effort to locate items of value.

During her plea hearing, Bottensek admitted that she stole at least three different credit cards from the mail and made unauthorized charges, without the permission or knowledge of the cardholders. 

At sentencing, Judge Peterson noted that Bottensek committed these crimes while suffering from a severe addiction to methamphetamine, and although perhaps mitigating, Bottensek still was responsible for her actions. 

Judge Peterson said that Bottensek had the ability and the duty to manage her addiction and her mental health for her sake, as well as the sake of the community, which she ultimately failed to do.

 In imposing sentence, Judge Peterson stressed to Bottensek that a 30-month sentence was required to provide her with specific deterrence so that she will not repeat this criminal conduct. 

The judge explained to Bottensek that, “stealing the mail is not a minor crime. People really trust the U.S. mail system and for many it is an important avenue of communication to the rest of the world.” 

“Stealing somebody’s mail creates a profound sense of violation of personal integrity – it’s like breaking into someone’s house and stealing their property,” Peterson said, adding that Bottensek added to this sense of violation by stealing identities and violating people’s financial security through credit card fraud.

The case against Bottensek is the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Wood County Sheriff’s Department, Grand Rapids Police Department, and Plover Police Department.  The prosecution of this case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Graber.