News and Press Releases

Circuit Court Ruling Reduces Prison term by Three Years

May 26, 2009

The Shoreline, Washington man who lead a large I.D. theft ring, was back before a federal judge this morning asking for a sentence reduction following a 9th Circuit Court ruling on how victims are counted in I.D. theft cases. WARREN ARMSTEAD, 53, was sentenced almost three years ago to 17 and a half years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and nine counts of bank fraud. Today, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart sentenced ARMSTEAD to the high end of the guidelines range now in effect: 170 months, or just over 14 years in prison.

ARMSTEAD was convicted following a five day trial in March 2006.

According to testimony at trial, between 2002 and 2004, ARMSTEAD was the leader of an extensive identity fraud/ bank fraud scheme. ARMSTEAD recruited drug addicts to break into homes and cars to steal identifying information. ARMSTEAD sometimes burglarized the homes himself, breaking into residences in some of Seattle’s most expensive neighborhoods. With the stolen documents, ARMSTEAD had forgers make fake identifications that co-conspirators used to go into banks and businesses and commit fraud. ARMSTEAD would demand half the take from his underlings. More than 150 people have been identified as victims of ARMSTEAD’s ring. In all the group racked up more than $400,000 in losses.

Due to the fact that banks reimbursed account holders for the fraud losses and that the victims’ other losses associated with ARMSTEAD’s conduct, including the time and money spent fixing their accounts and credit, had not been quantified at the original sentencing, the court found that the individuals could no longer be counted as “victims” for purposes of sentencing. Thus ARMSTEAD’s guidelines range was lower than it was at his first sentencing.

In asking for a significant sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Tessa Gorman told the court that ID Theft is “a unnerving crime that shakes people to their core.... The emotional harm lingers on.” Ms. Gorman read from victim statements that indicate the victims don’t feel safe in their homes, or going out in public. One wrote that even five years later “this is always in my mind.”

As he announced the sentence Judge Robart noted that “ID fraud is a growing crime that has remarkable personal impact on people.... ID theft is corrosive to the very heart of our society which is built on trust.”

The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Lynnwood Police Department, and the King County Sheriff’s Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Tessa Gorman and Carl Blackstone 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 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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