Mark Jerome Haltom Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on August 28, 2012, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, MARK JEROME HALTOM, a 53-year-old transient, pled guilty to access device fraud. Sentencing has been set for November 28, 2012. He is currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica T. Fehr, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
In August of 2011, the Red Lodge Police Department was contacted by a Confidential Source (CS) who said he had been contacted by a man named "Mark." The man asked the CS if he could get credit card numbers for him to use in a scheme to defraud people and banks. The CS stated that Mark was living in a van parked in a business parking lot in Red Lodge. The CS further stated that Mark had shown him a laptop and printer, numerous gift card blank templates and further stated that he could alter the numbers on existing cards. The CS also stated that Mark offered to pay him several hundred dollars for card numbers. The CS reported that Mark showed him/her how the numbers on credit cards were transposed or reprinted on the magnetic strip of gift cards utilizing a laser printer. Once the cards were changed, then he would use them to purchase merchandise. According to the CS, Mark stated that he used the credit cards to purchase prepaid phone cards and minutes. The CS stated Mark showed him a stack of what he called counterfeit cards where the letters and numbers did not appear to be raised on the cards as they are on the genuine cards. Mark told the CS that he had been stealing credit card numbers for years while he traveled across the country and had just returned from Arkansas and Sturgis, South Dakota.
Law enforcement later confirmed that a van was parked in the location mentioned by the CS. The vehicle was registered to HALTOM. Law enforcement conducted surveillance of the van and confirmed that a male matching HALTOM's description was living in the vehicle. During surveillance, law enforcement observed HALTOM discarding items in a nearby dumpster. Law enforcement later looked through the trash and found a light that appeared to be used for tracing or forging documents.
A Red Lodge Police Department search warrant was executed for HALTOM's vehicle and camper. During the search law enforcement recovered lap top computers, materials used for manufacturing counterfeit credit cards, and approximately 273 credit card numbers. A federal search warrant for the lap top computers and other electronic storage devices was obtained. The results of the examination revealed counterfeit credit card templates on HALTOM's computer. In addition, inquiry letters were sent out to the issuing banks of the approximately 273 credit card numbers which were recovered from HALTOM's possessions. A majority of the credit card numbers found in HALTOM's vehicle were validly issued credit card numbers which were compromised. A majority of the credit card companies implicated by HALTOM's conduct are located in states outside of Montana. The total financial loss incurred as a result of the unauthorized access to the individuals' credit card numbers is estimated at $15,000.
HALTOM faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Red Lodge Police Department and the U.S. Secret Service.