updated 11/25/2008 5:21:57 PM ET 2008-11-25T22:21:57

A former North Carolina mailman who admitted keeping people's junk mail in his garage or buried in his backyard has been sentenced to probation.

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Steven Padgett pleaded guilty in federal court on Aug. 18 to delaying the mail. He received three years' probation during a hearing Wednesday. He faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Eleven family members and friends attended the hearing, and 32 others sent letters of support for Padgett.

The 58-year-old Padgett said he kept thousands of pieces of third-class mail instead of delivering it on his route in Apex. His attorney said Padgett couldn't keep up with the U.S. Postal Service's strict schedule.

No first- or second-class mail was found at his home.

The U.S. Postal Service did not receive a single complaint from Padgett's customers about missing mail during the years he withheld pizza circulars, oil change discounts and Chinese restaurant specials, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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