News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Former Department of Licensing Employee Sentenced to Two Years in Prison For Taking Bribes

Woman Sold IDs to Defendants Who Used Them in Bank Fraud Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2011

MELINDA KAY JOHNSON, a former employee of the Washington State Department of Licensing was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 24 months in prison and two years of supervised release for the crime of Conspiracy to Commit Unlawful Production of Identification Documents.  JOHNSON sold Washington State ID cards to various conspirators, who then engaged in a bank fraud scheme.  JOHNSON sold the cards for as much as $3,000 each.  At sentencing U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly noted that the offense involved a breach of the “public trust,” and that Johnson “helped to facilitate the fraud.”

According to records in the case and testimony at the trial of others charged in the case, between 2008 and 2010, various conspirators in a bank fraud scheme obtained Washington State Identification cards from JOHNSON in bogus names, and used the identities to open multiple bank accounts in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington and in Las Vegas, Nevada.  After the balances in the accounts were inflated with fraudulent deposits using forged checks, co-conspirators quickly used the debit cards to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars of cigarettes at Sam’s Club stores in California.  The cigarettes were then taken to a store in Hollywood, California, where they were sold for cash at a discounted price.  The Washington State ID cards were critical to the scheme and JOHNSON sold at least nine of the cards to various members of the conspiracy.  Bank of America lost over $1 million in the scheme, and $200,000 of that loss was from accounts opened using the fake documents supplied by JOHNSON.

In their sentencing memo, prosecutors urged a significant prison sentence saying JOHNSON, a ten year DOL employee, broke the law each time she accepted a bribe.  “Johnson grossly abused her position of public trust for her own personal gain.  Her acts eroded public confidence in the integrity of all public officials, damaging the public’s expectation that public servants will faithfully perform their duties and not seek bribes or behave corruptly…. The cards she issued, especially those in false identities, could easily have been used for purposes even more sinister than opening bank accounts for fake businesses.  Johnson did not merely look the other way or fail to ask questions; she greedily lined her pockets while knowingly breaching the public trust,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

Members of the bank fraud ring who were convicted at trial are scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

The lead investigative agencies on the case are the U.S. Secret Service, the King County Sheriff’s Office – City of SeaTac Police, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).  Assistance has also been provided by the Washington Department of Licensing, Special Investigations Division; and by the FBI.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kate Vaughan and Michael Scoville.

 

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