News and Press Releases

News and Press Releases

Woman pleads guilty to role in large, multi-state identity theft ring

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 11, 2012


MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court in St. Paul, a 43-year-old woman pleaded guilty to stealing personal information and using it to create counterfeit checks that were then passed at retail stores and banks. Kelly Jenelle Scott specifically pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Scott, who was charged on July 5, 2012, entered her plea before United States District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson.

From 2010 through November 2011, Scott was admittedly part of a large-scale identity theft ring responsible for the theft of approximately $2 million from financial institutions and retail businesses in no fewer than 14 states. In her plea agreement, Scott admitted that she and other co-conspirators used stolen personal information, including driver’s license and bank account numbers, to create counterfeit checks and fraudulent identification documents. Scott and her co-conspirators then negotiated those checks at various retail stores in an effort to purchase expensive merchandise, which they subsequently returned for cash. Scott’s co-conspirators also deposited the counterfeit checks into the bank accounts of unsuspecting individuals, only to withdraw the money shortly thereafter. Scott admitted responsibility for at least $15,800 in fraudulent purchases and attempted purchases in several different states.

Scott is the latest individual to plead guilty and accept responsibility for her role in this multi-state identity theft ring. Fifteen of her co-conspirators have already entered guilty pleas: On June 21, 2012, Robin Dawn Finger pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. On June 20, 2012, Russell Raymond Royals pleaded guilty to the same two counts. Additionally, 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 have all pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Patricia Grace Pnewski pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. 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.

A sixteenth co-conspirator, Cynthia Andrea Maxwell, is scheduled to plead guilty to related charges tomorrow.

Ten other co-conspirators have pleaded not guilty to charges ranging from bank fraud and aggravated identity theft to money laundering. These ten await trial, currently scheduled for August 20, 2012.
For her crimes, Scott faces 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. Judge Magnuson will determine her sentence at a future hearing, not yet scheduled.

This case is 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 Investigation Division. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen B. Schommer.

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 Investigation Division also urges citizens to review the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, which can be found at http://www.irs.gov.

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