United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
CHARLOTTE WOMAN SENTENCED TO SERVE 30 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR IDENTITY THEFT The Defendant Wrote Over 200 Fraudulent Checks in Two Years CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Charlotte woman was ordered to serve 30 months in federal prison for an identity theft related offense, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Russell F. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Charlotte Field Division.
Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. sentenced yesterday Karen Thompson Gabriel, 44, of Charlotte, to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Judge Conrad also ordered Gabriel to pay restitution in the amount of $50,000 to the victim whose identity Gabriel stole. Gabriel was also ordered to pay $114,360 to Certegy, Inc., which provides check cashing services to businesses and financial institutions, and to 16 other retail stores that were affected by Gabriel’s fraudulent scheme.
On March 3, 2011, a criminal bill of information charged Gabriel with one count of wire fraud affecting a financial institution. On March 16, 2011, Gabriel entered a guilty plea to the charge, and as part of her plea agreement agreed to pay restitution to all victims of her offenses. According to filed documents and statements made in court, Gabriel stole the identity of a victim identified as “ADS.” Between 2005 and 2007, Gabriel proceeded to pass over 200 counterfeit checks using ADS’s identity, to obtain goods from various retail stores in multiple cities and states, with a value of approximately $114,000. Court records indicate that upon obtaining ADS’s identity in 2005, Gabriel applied for and received a Tennessee Driver’s License in ADS’s name. Gabriel then fraudulently obtained stolen and counterfeit checks pre-printed with variations of ADS’s name, and used those to purchase goods at large retail stores, such as The Home Depot and Wal-Mart. For a share of the profits, Gabriel gave the stolen goods to the persons who provided her with counterfeit checks.
At Gabriel’s sentencing hearing, ADS testified about the devastating effects that the defendant’s conduct has had on ADS’s life over the past four years. ADS explained that ADS first learned that ADS’s identity had been stolen in 2007. ADS testified that at least three warrants for ADS’s arrest were mistakenly issued in North and South Carolina because of the counterfeit checks that Gabriel had written in ADS’s name. At yesterday’s hearing, ADS recounted an incident wherein ADS was detained at the airport by U.S. Customs Officials upon returning from a business trip because ADS’s passport had been flagged for inspection. ADS also testified that when ADS was laid off in 2009 due to the recession, employment offers were withdrawn after prospective employers conducted background checks. In addition, due to Gabriel’s criminal conduct, ADS was unable to rent an apartment or open a checking account without difficulty. Eventually, ADS was forced to apply for a new social security number, and obtain a legal name change in order to obtain employment and carry on a normal life. ADS spent an estimated 4,000 hours attempting to restore ADS’s credit and deal with the repercussions of Gabriel’s crimes. ADS also testified that each time ADS was approached by a new creditor or law enforcement, no one would believe ADS’s story, and that ADS was “treated like a criminal and not a victim.”
In issuing the sentencing in the case, Judge Conrad noted Gabriel’s claim that she was not aware that she had stolen the identity of a “real person.” However, the Court found that Gabriel’s offense was “egregious” and extensive – involving hundreds of checks written in multiple cities totalling over $114,000. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Conrad stated that whether or not Gabriel knew the victim, Gabriel “knew that she was stealing from someone.” Judge Conrad said that in this case, ADS was “truly hurt” and that ADS’s life was “torn apart.” In assessing the 30 month prison term, Judge Conrad also noted that throughout Gabriel’s extensive criminal history for fraud offenses, she was given multiple probated sentences and was on probation for a forgery offense when she committed this offense. Judge Conrad ordered Gabriel to pay ADS $50,000 for the time ADS spent restoring ADS’s good credit and name. “Identity theft causes real harm and has devastating effects on the lives of those whose identity has been stolen,” stated U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “Together with our law enforcement partners, my office will continue to aggressively prosecute criminals who commit identity fraud and prey on unwitting victims.” Upon designation of a federal facility, Gabriel, who has been released on bond, will be transferred into custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
The investigation of the case was handled by USSS and local law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office would like to recognize the contribution of the Kannapolis Police Department. The Department’s facial recognition technology led law enforcement to Gabriel. The prosecution for the government was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael E. Savage of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, with the assistance of Shirley Rutledge, Victim-Witness Coordinator.