News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Final Defendant In Multi-State Bank Fraud And ID Theft Ring Sentenced To Prison

Ring Uncovered When Alert TSA Agent Spots Multiple IDs in Carry-on Luggage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 3, 2011

            STEVE HAWKINS, 49, of Sacramento, California, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 28 months in prison, four years of supervised release and $4,231 in restitution for bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.  HAWKINS was a member of a bank fraud ring that traveled to Seattle in November 2008, to steal from individual bank accounts.  U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly imposed the sentence.

            According to records in the case, HAWKINS and a number of co-conspirators arrived at Sea-Tac Airport on November 13, 2008.  Armon Maiden, 61, of Inglewood, California was the group leader,  and had provided his cohorts with fake checks and identity documents so that they could travel to banks and use the false identities to drain customer accounts.  The co-conspirators tried to make a $5,000 cash withdrawal from a customer account at a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Auburn, Washington, and four hours later, the co-conspirator tried to make another $5,000 withdrawal from a different customer account at a Wells Fargo branch in Portland, Oregon.   The next day, November 14, 2008, the ring attempted a third time to withdraw $2,500 from another customer account at a Portland Wells Fargo branch.  In each case, alert tellers refused to hand over the money.  In all, the co-conspirators made at least six attempts to deposit phony checks and then withdraw money.  On two of the attempts, the co-conspirators were able to withdraw funds totaling $3,400.  HAWKINS’s role in the scheme was to drive the co-conspirators to bank branch after bank branch as they carried out the criminal plan.

            On the afternoon of November 14, 2008, the group returned to Sea-Tac to fly back to Long Beach, California.  The last minute purchase of plane tickets for cash resulted in two members of the group being sent for secondary screening.  The two, Lamos Wayne Sturgis and Jodi Lynn Waller were arrested when alert screeners discovered multiple identity documents in nineteen different names in their luggage.  The rest of the co-conspirators were identified, arrested and charged in the subsequent investigation.

            Maiden was sentenced in May 2010 to four years in prison.  Sturgis was sentenced in May 2009, to 34 months in prison. Waller was sentenced to one year in prison in June 2009.  Three other members of the ring were sentenced in the last few months: Deanna Hardnett, was sentenced to 36 months in prison, Sean Alston was sentenced to 27 months in prison and Yvette Johnson-Draughty was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

            In asking for a significant sentence for HAWKINS, prosecutors noted that the schemers stole the identities of more than 25 victims and had to meticulously plan their attacks on the bank accounts. “The members of the group had to arrange for false identification documents to be created in advance, and carved out time in their schedule to fly to other cities, including Seattle, to execute the scheme to defraud.  While Hawkins was likely motivated in part by a desire to get money to support his drug habit, this was not a crime of impulse.  Hawkins had time to think about what he was doing, and chose to take part in Maiden’s scheme,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Scoville.

            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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