News and Press Releases

Eight Defendants Now Sentenced to Up to Five Years in Prison

February 8, 2008

Three more members of a large identity theft and bank fraud ring were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle in a case dubbed “The Name Change Game.” The three join five other defendants sentenced last Friday, February 1, 2008. RUBY MYRTIS CALDWELL, 55, of Seattle, Washington, was sentenced to 30 months in prison, LAQUESHA TILLMAN, 28, of Portland, Oregon, was sentenced to 27 months in prison, and AUSHA MIKELE PIGOTT, 32, of Seattle, Washington, was sentenced to four months in prison and four months of electronic home detention. All three women will be on five years of supervised release by the Federal Probation Office. If they violate any terms of the release, such as having any item of identification in a name other than their own, they could face additional prison time. At the sentencing for PIGOTT, a mother of six young children, U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez observed that “People don’t think about their victims when they do the crimes. Many of the victims are their children who then suffer from their parents’ absence.”

Last week the leader of the ring, TRINA CALDWELL, 31, of Kent, Washington was sentenced to 60 months in prison and five years of supervised release for Bank Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft. TRINA CALDWELL was one of the leaders of the ring who abused the legal name change system to commit bank fraud. Conspirators repeatedly obtained name change orders from King County District Court under false pretenses and used those orders to get valid drivers licenses. Using the driver’s licenses and false social security numbers, the conspirators would open bank accounts, write bad checks or write bad checks to each other’s accounts and withdraw cash before the checks would bounce. More than 50 stores and banks were victimized in this way. Losses to the banks were approximately $86,000 and losses to various businesses were in excess of $140,000. Once the conspirators had committed all the fraud they could under one name, they would go to court and request a new name change, sometimes indicating they were getting married or wanted to take their father’s name. These representations were false. But once the name change had been accomplished, the fraud cycle began once more. For example, LAQUESHA TILLMAN changed her name five times in a one year period.

Four additional members of the ring were sentenced last week: TRINA CALDWELL’s mother, CLARETHA CALDWELL, 45, of Tacoma was sentenced to 12 months and a day; MELANIE COCKER, 35, of Seattle was sentenced to 14 months; BIRDIE BELLINGER, 46, of Los Angeles was sentenced to 24 months and BETTY JEAN KENNEDY, 52 , of Seattle was sentenced to 15 months. At sentencing, prosecutors filed exhibits showing the multiple drivers licenses obtained by each defendant in various names. All eight defendants entered guilty pleas over the Fall of 2007.

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office working group on Identity Theft.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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