SEATTLE MAN SENTENCED TO 5+ YEARS IN PRISON FOR LEADING MULTI-STATE BANK FRAUD AND IDENTITY THEFT RING
EVERETT JAMES a/k/a Robert Sinkfield, 38, of Seattle, was sentenced last Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 65 months in prison and 5 years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud, Bank Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Fraudulent Possession and Use of Means of Identification. JAMES led an identity theft ring that operated in Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho, racking up more than $190,000 in losses to stores, banks and individuals. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton told JAMES the way he conducted the ID theft scheme was “cold, callous and calculating.” Judge Leighton ordered JAMES immediately into custody. “You preyed on the hard work of industrious people to make money and you didn’t care about the harm to others,” Judge Leighton said.
JAMES was arrested March 2, 2007, following investigations in Washington and Oregon. JAMES was arrested at the Hawthorne Inn and Suites in Kent, Washington. A search of his hotel room turned up the counterfeit Washington Drivers’ License of one of the victims. More than $1,000 worth of stolen checks had been written against the victim’s account in less than a year.
According to records filed in the case, JAMES and a number of coconspirators used forged identities and stolen checks to purchase thousands of dollars in merchandise at stores such as Nordstrom, Costco, Shopko, Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer. Members of the ring would then return the merchandise to another branch of the store and collect cash. JAMES kept most of the money, giving various people working with him about ten percent of the proceeds. JAMES used stolen information to have a coconspirator in Black Diamond, Washington make counterfeit drivers licenses in victims names. Then, using stolen or counterfeit checks, members of the ring would purchase, and then return merchandise for cash. The group traveled widely implementing this scheme purchasing and returning goods in Colfax, Federal Way, Manson, Wenatchee, Kennewick, Tukwila, Sequim, Puyallup, Oak Harbor, Seatac, Sunnyside, Issaquah, and Spokane, Washington. They also traveled to Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Clackamas and Portland, Oregon. Additionally, they traveled to Boise, Idaho. One coconspirator was arrested passing fraudulent checks in Glendale, California.
JAMES drove the conspirators to the stores, kept the fraudulent IDs when they were finished, and split the cash with the runners. JAMES was the one who directed the runners where to go, and what types of merchandise to purchase, and the amount of merchandise to purchase. Coconspirators have told law enforcement that a cashier at a store provided JAMES with checks written to the store, so that he could either attempt to order checks on the victims account, or have a forger print up counterfeit checks on that account number.
JAMES pleaded guilty September 25, 2007.
In asking for a significant sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Janet Freeman described the contrast between the smiling drivers license photos of the people whose identities were stolen, and the reality that hit them in the form of this crime ring. “Surely these victims were not smiling when they learned that an interstate crime spree was occurring under their own names. It must have been a disappointing shock for them to learn that their drivers license numbers, as well as bank account numbers, were being used to commit egregious frauds. And, most certainly they were not smiling as they expended great effort clearing up these matters with local police officers, financial institutions, and the merchants,” Freeman wrote in her sentencing memo.
Under the Aggravated Identity Theft statute, JAMES was sentenced to 41 months on the underlying Bank Fraud charges and must serve a mandatory 24 month consecutive sentence for Aggravated Identity Theft.
The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Portland Police Department, the Pullman Police Department, and the Sequim Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Janet Freeman 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.