A Washington Post newspaper deliveryman charged with breaking into mailboxes in an upscale Haymarket retirement community pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal mail theft charge, admitting that he stole about $1,500 in cash and gift cards.

Robert E. Bell III, 31, of Woodbridge, told a federal judge he took envelopes from the gated community’s mailboxes for “a couple gift cards” and “a little bit of cash.” Prosecutors said in court he took from at least 10 residents, mostly stealing the contents of holiday and birthday cards.

According to court filings, Bell worked as a newspaper deliveryman in the Haymarket area for more than four years — roughly the time that residents of the 55-and-older Regency at Dominion Valley retirement community began noticing outgoing mail being stolen. The residents’ complaints — and damage to mailboxes — prompted federal investigators to set up a hidden camera, which caught Bell breaking into a mailbox and tampering with mail, according to the filings.

Bell, who has a lengthy criminal record, was charged with mail theft in October and indicted on similar counts in December.

A Post spokeswoman said previously that Bell was a subcontractor for, but not an employee of, The Washington Post and has since been fired by his company. Bell’s attorney declined to comment.

Bell is scheduled to be sentenced April 4.

Get updates on your area delivered via e-mail