News and Press Releases

Tacoma Woman Top Abuser of Legal Name Change System to Steal $46,000

February 15, 2008

TEESHAWNDRA LENELL NELSON, 24, of Tacoma, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 33 months in prison and five years of supervised release for Bank Fraud. NELSON was the most prolific participant in a case dubbed “The Name Change Game.” Nelson repeatedly used the court system to change her name, first to “Kimberly Sueann Jones,” then to “Monica Leann Tillmen,” then to “Nicole Reana Wells,” then to “Carolyn Reana Toeban,” then to “Sophia Lee Pea,” then to “Shelia Elane Locke,” next to “Ruth Ann Kirschner,” and finally to “Lisa Alee Morton.” NELSON used the legitimate name change documents to get drivers licenses, to open bank accounts and write bad checks. She is the tenth member of the ring to be sentenced. U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez ordered NELSON into custody immediately in part because she tested positive for drug use while on pretrial release.

According to records filed in the case, 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 was 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.

In NELSON’s case her activity resulted in an approximate loss to banks and businesses of $46,000. The exact amount of restitution she will be responsible for is still being calculated.

The other defendants in this case have gotten sentences ranging from a year to five years in prison. On February 1, 2008, the leader of the ring, TRINA CALDWELL, 31, of Kent, Washington was sentenced to five years in prison.

As part of her sentence, Judge Martinez ordered that NELSON undergo drug treatment, noting that she has drug convictions going back to age sixteen. The judge urged her to get her drug addiction under control to be a positive influence on her two young children.

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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