A former Postal Service worker was sentenced to 18 months in prison for defrauding the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in disability and food assistance payments.

Colette Lee, from Baltimore, will also have to pay back $244,912 in workers compensation and nutrition assistance benefits to the Postal Service and the Agriculture Department, according to the Justice Department.

"Taxpayers foot the bill for phony disability claims by government workers," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "Postal employee Colette Lee filed a fraudulent disability claim in 2007 and kept the scam going for seven years until she was caught. This case is an insult to taxpayers and honest government employees."

Colette pled guilty to making false statements to obtain federal employee compensation benefits, according to the Justice Department. She pled guilty to the charges in 2014, but was sentenced March 30.

See also: Postal Service employee falsely claimed workers comp for 7 years, DOJ says

See also: Your Christmas gifts are changing the Postal Service

Lee claimed she had injuries to her right hand and arm that prevented her from opening doors, turning steering wheels, handling items or working longer than 20 minutes without a break, according to the justice Department. But investigators saw her driving her car, shopping by herself while loading and unloading groceries, riding her bike and in general using her right hand without sign of injury.

The Postal Service has struggled to contain its workers compensation costs, which have grown by more than 36 percent — from $840 million in 2005 to more than $1.3 billion in 2014 — driven by rising health costs and an aging workforce, according to the agency.

Despite making up just 25 percent of the federal workforce, the Postal Service accounts for nearly 45 percent of workers' compensation costs.

Mandated cost-of-living adjustments account for about 15 percent of the growth, and medical costs per case have jumped 43 percent since 2008 — far higher than the countrywide average of 21 percent, according to the agency.

A majority of the Postal Service's workers' compensation claims come from injuries sustained prior to 2008. About 10,240 employees on the workers' compensation rolls were older than 55 and 1,892 were older than 70, according to the agency.

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