BANGOR, Maine — A former postal worker was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court to three months in prison for stealing nearly 3,000 pain pills intended for veterans in eastern Maine.

Christopher McBride, 39, of Bangor admitted to stealing the prescription medications in 2010 while working at the Eastern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Hampden. He pleaded guilty in September to theft of mail by a postal employee.

In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced McBride to two years of supervised release after he completes his prison term. The judge also ordered the defendant to pay $221.50 in restitution to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

McBride, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps after he graduated from Bangor High School in 1990, became “profoundly addicted” to Vicodin in January 2010 after it was prescribed for him by his dentist, Woodcock said before imposing the sentence.

“The defendant was willing to deprive his fellow veterans of the pain medication they needed to support his own habit,” the judge said of McBride. “He stole a staggering amount of pills in 21 separate thefts.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Lowell, who prosecuted the case, recommended that McBride serve five months in prison.

Defense attorney Joseph Baldacci of Bangor urged Woodcock to impose no prison time but to instead sentence his client to six months of house arrest. That would have allowed McBride to continue working at the Getchell Agency, which operates group homes for people with disabilities and is owned by McBride’s aunt Rena Getchell.

“I ask for leniency and forgiveness,” McBride told Woodcock. “I am very, very sorry.”

Woodcock rejected home confinement, citing his responsibility to impose a sentence that would act as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to commit a similar crime.

“A sentence of mere home confinement is not what people fear,” he told McBride. “Jail is what people fear. I would not be doing my job if I did not impose a prison term.”

Woodcock ordered McBride to report to a facility to be designated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on March 2.

McBride was the second postal worker from the Hampden facility to be sentenced for being involved in the plan to steal drugs.

Heather Buck, 40, of Brewer was sentenced in October to two weeks in prison and fined $500 for helping McBride divert packages. She pleaded guilty to the federal misdemeanor of obstruction of the mail.

McBride, who admitted that he stole prescription drugs for his own use, and Buck worked together at the facility.

The investigation that led to the charges began in September 2010 after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service received information that veterans living in eastern Maine had not received prescription drugs that had been mailed to them, according to court documents. Between June 11, 2010, and Sept. 3, 2010, 15 parcels containing narcotics were reported missing by the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General.

Surveillance cameras were set up at the Hampden facility. Buck was caught on video opening a package containing a book on Sept. 12, 2010, according to information in the prosecution version of events to which she pleaded guilty.

McBride was recorded on Sept. 15 taking “two white parcels from the mail stream and placing them in his backpack,” according to the prosecution version of events to which he pleaded guilty. Further surveillance in September, October and November captured McBride taking several additional packages containing prescription drugs. McBride admitted to stealing 2,840 pills from the mail.

Buck faced up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 on the federal misdemeanor charge. McBride faced up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.