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Man gets 2 years for Pinellas Social Security check thefts

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TAMPA — When Alphonso Guice was shot in the face, police who responded to the scene uncovered evidence that the shooting victim was also a criminal.

Guice would be linked to hundreds of Social Security checks stolen from the mail in Pinellas County by a conspirator who worked inside the post office, officials said. About 250 stolen checks were found inside the house where Guice was shot in the area of 21st Avenue East and 42nd Street North.

Guice had been a runner who obtained batches of checks from a conspirator and sold them on the street, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Kaiser. The checks found by police the day of the shooting, Oct. 5, 2012, were part of a batch Guice hadn’t had a chance to sell.

Guice’s fingerprints were later found on a check that was part of a batch of 200 to 200 checks stolen in Pinellas and cashed in Lake City.

Guice was critically injured that day, but survived.

On Monday, he was sentenced to two years in federal prison for theft of government funds and theft of the mail.

He could have faced more time, but U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore was influenced by appeals defense lawyer Matthew Farmer’s plea to reduce Guice’s sentence because of his extensive medical problems as a result of being shot.

“My life has changed completely since the night that I was shot,” said Guice, who uses a wheelchair because of complications from surgery in which bone from his leg and hip was used to reconstruct his jaw. “I understand what I did was wrong ... I will never be that person again. I am in pain all the time.”

No one was ever arrested for the shooting. But authorities continue to investigate the stolen Social Security checks, with help from Guice. Authorities have not yet charged the postal employee suspected of involvement in the thefts.

Kaiser said she expects to return to court to seek a further reduction in Guice’s sentence because of his ongoing cooperation.

Farmer said Guice has had multiple surgeries on his jaw and had to be hospitalized because of a spike in his fever. He also coughs up blood and takes pain medication in jail.

Whittemore said the thefts showed “a very callous disregard for the rights of others,” but he said it was unusual for a defendant to also be a gunshot victim. “No one wants this to be a death sentence,” he said, imposing a sentence lower than the 37 months recommended by the prosecution and at the low end of sentencing guidelines.

The judge entered a forfeiture judgment of $188,000.

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