News and Press Releases

News and Press Releases

Three sentenced for passing counterfeit checks at retail stores

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 17, 2012


MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court, a 22-year-old woman was sentenced for using counterfeit checks at retail businesses to purchase gift cards and merchandise. United States District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis sentenced Ci’Preaunni Ja’Von Stewart, no known address, to time served on one count of aiding and abetting bank fraud. Stewart, who was indicted along with Ryan Lamarr Chambers on January 19, 2012, pleaded guilty on March 19, 2012.

Following today’s sentencing, Louis Stephens, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s Minneapolis Field Office, said, “These defendants were well versed in the complexities of using identity theft to commit bank fraud. This type of crime continues to increase in complexity and impact to our economy each year. The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force is a force multiplier that enables the combined resources of federal, state and local law enforcement to pool our resources and maximize each agency’s expertise to effectively combat this type of crime.”

In her plea agreement, Stewart admitted that she and Chambers defrauded banks and retailers of money and property by passing counterfeit checks at stores, primarily Target, to purchase gift cards and merchandise. The defendants claimed the checks were traveler’s checks, causing their counterfeit nature to go undetected for several days. The Target stores impacted were located in Buffalo, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Edina, Medina, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Oakdale, St. Cloud, Vadnais Heights, and Woodbury.

In addition, Stewart admitted opening several bank accounts to be used in the scheme. These accounts were funded with checks drawn on other accounts that contained insufficient funds to cover the checks. Once the unfunded accounts were opened, Stewart admitted purchasing checks for those accounts.

On June 25, 2012, Chambers, unknown age and address, was sentenced to time already served, along with five years of supervised release on one count of bank fraud. He pleaded guilty on April 12, 2012. In his plea agreement, Chambers admitted his role in the scheme and admitted that the total loss was more than $30,000, but less than $70,000.

Chambers and Stewart were ordered to pay more than $45,000 in joint restitution.

On June 28, 2012, in a related case, Jamee Leah Spillman, age 39, no known address, was sentenced to 57 months in prison on one count of aiding and abetting bank fraud. She was indicted on January 19, 2012, and pleaded guilty on March 13, 2012. In her plea agreement, Spillman admitted that she applied for personal checking accounts using false identities and then used the fraudulent checks to purchase gift cards.

These cases were the result of investigations by the U.S. Secret Service, the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, and the Minneapolis Police Department. They were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Steinkamp.

The Financial Crimes Task Force was established pursuant to state law. It is comprised of
local, state and federal law enforcement investigators, who work to combat the growing trend of
cross-jurisdictional financial crimes. The task force is overseen by an advisory board, also
created under state law.

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