Two More Individuals Plead Guilty To Roles In Large, Multi-state Identity Theft Ring
MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court in St. Paul, two Minneapolis men pleaded guilty to roles in an identity theft ring responsible for the loss of $2 million to banks and retail stores in 14 states. Steven Lavell Maxwell, age 43, and Joel Delano Powell, III, age 19, admitted stealing personal information from hundreds of people and using it to create fake identification documents and counterfeit checks that were then passed at retail stores to purchase expensive merchandise subsequently returned for cash. The counterfeit checks were also deposited into the bank accounts of unsuspecting victims, and then money was withdrawn from those same accounts.
Maxwell and Powell specifically pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. In addition, Maxwell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering. Both men were indicted on December 5, 2011, and entered their pleas before United States District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson.
In his plea agreement, Maxwell admitted that between 2006 and December of 2011, he used the personal information of hundreds of people to create counterfeit checks and fake identification documents. Maxwell is responsible for approximately $2 million in fraudulent documents he created.
Powell admittedly joined the conspiracy in 2011. He recruited others to conduct fraudulent financial transactions and provided them with counterfeit and stolen checks to use to conduct the fraudulent transactions. Powell is responsible for at least $70,000 in fraudulent transactions involving counterfeit and stolen checks.
These two defendants are the latest individuals to plead guilty and accept responsibility for their roles in this multi-state identity theft ring. Twenty-one of their co-conspirators have already entered guilty pleas: On August 1, 2012, Donyea Terrell Collins, Trey Jeremiah Powell, Elston Edwards Sharps, and Vinicia Andrell Williamson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. On July 12, 2012, Cynthia Andrea Maxwell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering. On July 11, 2012, Kelly Jenelle Scott pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Robin Dawn Finger, Russell Raymond Royals, Brianna Marie Blegen, Kevin Terrell Martin, Melissa Jean Beaman, Majorie Marie Neely, Francis Emily Jones, Christeena Janell Barker, Jamie Hubert Branson, Darryl Alan Bryant, Jacqueline Cleveland, and Ginger Loucina Halliburton pleaded guilty to the same two charges. On September 29, 2011, Lee Vang pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of aggravated identity theft. On July 20, 2011, Brianna Marie Darwin pleaded guilty to the same two counts. On February 6, 2012, Patricia Grace Pnewski pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
Five other co-conspirators have pleaded not guilty to charges including from bank fraud and aggravated identity theft and await trial. Their trial is currently scheduled for August 20, 2012.
For their crimes, Maxwell and Powell face a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and a mandatory minimum consecutive penalty of two years in prison for identity theft. Maxwell faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering charge. Judge Magnuson will determine their sentences at a future hearing, not yet scheduled.
These cases are the result of an investigation conducted by the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen B. Schommer and Michelle E. Jones.
The Financial Crimes Task Force was established pursuant to state law and is comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement investigators, who are dedicated to combating the growing problem of cross-jurisdictional financial crimes. The task force, which is overseen by an advisory board also created under state law, serves the entire District of Minnesota, presenting its cases to county or federal prosecutors, as appropriate.
The task force and the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office want to remind people to protect themselves from identity theft. For more information, visit http://www.stopfraud.gov/protect-identity.html.
The IRS-Criminal Investigations also urges citizens to review the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, which can be found at http://www.irs.gov.