Department of Justice SealDepartment of Justice
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Canadian Man Sentenced to 41 Months in U.S. Prison for Role in International Check Stealing Scheme

WASHINGTON – A Canadian citizen was sentenced today in U.S. District Court to 41 months in prison for his role in an international scheme to steal checks valued at more than $2 million from U.S. corporations and launder the funds derived from the stolen checks, announced Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Alice S. Fisher.

In addition to his prison term, Russell D. Berscht, 40, was sentenced by Judge Joseph Farnan in Delaware District Court to three years supervised release and payment of $214,000 in restitution. Following a seven day jury trial in September 2007, Berscht was convicted of all charges in a three-count, superseding indictment that charged him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud.

According to evidence presented at trial, beginning in approximately 2000 Berscht’s co-conspirators allegedly purchased stolen checks from operators in Nigeria for approximately one half the face value of the checks. The checks were stolen from large, Texas-based companies, including Enron and Compaq, and altered to be made payable to the conspirators’ entities or other entities designated by the conspirators. Berscht deposited at least one of the stolen checks worth more than $350,000 in a Cayman Island trust account and then distributed the money to himself, family members and his co-conspirators.

The case resulted from a five year investigation into a stolen check that was originally issued by Enron Corporation in March 2001 to Prudential Insurance to pay for Enron’s employee disability benefits. One of Berscht’s co-conspirators, Craig A. Hurst, pleaded guilty in January 2005 to a criminal information charging him with money laundering conspiracy. In March 2008, Hurst was sentenced to 14 months in prison, three years supervised release and payment of $184,000 in restitution.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Stacey Luck of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and former Fraud Section Trial Attorney Amanda Riedel. The case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Labor.