Vicki Lynn Heater Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Billings on February 12, 2009, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, VICKI LYNN HEATER, a 54-year-old resident of Red Lodge, pled guilty to credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft. Sentencing is set for May 14, 2009. She is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
An individual, hereafter referred to as "John Doe," lives in Bear Creek where he operates a contracting business. Tired of making a daily trip in to Red Lodge to collect mail and conduct business, he decided to hire a bookkeeper to take care of the business and personal finances.
HEATER was recommended by a mutual acquaintance. "John Doe" hired HEATER in 2006 and gave her access to his Red Lodge post office box, all account statements, as well as "John Doe's" signature stamp. Based on a handshake agreement, HEATER was supposed to pay all personal and business bills, forward mail and file bank and credit card account statements in HEATER'S home office in Red Lodge. "John Doe" did not see his account statements after hiring HEATER. HEATER was to be paid $150 per month for her services.
Shortly after HEATER began working for "John Doe" in March 2006, she began to write unauthorized checks to herself out of "John Doe's" personal and business bank accounts. She then began using "John Doe's" credit card to make personal purchases which were paid for out of personal and business accounts. HEATER then applied for credit cards in "John Doe's" name. Sometimes she would fill in "John Doe's" address in the credit card application, but other times she would fill in her personal address and telephone number as the contact information for the card in "John Doe's" name. She then used these cards for her own personal expenses and paid them with "John Doe's" funds.
At no time did "John Doe" ever offer to pay HEATER more than $150 per month or authorize her to make credit card expenditures or apply for credit cards in his name. HEATER also paid herself $800 from one of "John Doe's" accounts on July 12, 2007, and noted in the memo section of the check that it was for a bonus.
An itemized list of her personal expenses showed that many credit card purchases were made from an on-line prescription drug supplier with a server based in Malaysia. Including the unpaid credit card debt that was forgiven by multiple banks, and the direct losses, HEATER was responsible for thousands of dollars of loss.
HEATER faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release. In addition, HEATER faces an additional mandatory two year imprisonment, consecutive to any other sentence, for aggravated identity theft.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan M. Archer prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.