News and Press Releases

News and Press Releases

St. Paul woman pleads guilty to role in large, multi-state identity theft ring

July 12, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court in St. Paul, a 44-year-old St. Paul woman pleaded guilty to receiving $600 in fraudulently obtained funds in connection with a $2 million identity theft ring. Cynthia Andrea Maxwell specifically pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Maxwell, who was charged on July 2, 2012, entered her plea before United States District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson.

Maxwell was part of an identity theft ring responsible for stealing approximately $2 million from financial institutions and retail businesses in no fewer than 14 states. In her plea agreement, Maxwell admitted that on May 26, 2009, she received a wire of proceeds from that illegal activity. The money was wired to her by a co-conspirator in Iowa who obtained the money from using counterfeit checks and fake IDs to purchase items which were later returned for cash. The co-conspirator had previously received the counterfeit checks and fake IDs from Maxwell’s husband. During her hearing, Maxwell also admitted to filling out counterfeit checks which were later passed by co-conspirators to obtain merchandise and cash. Maxwell also signed blank cards with victims’ names which were later turned into fake identification documents.

The co-conspirators in this case have been charged with stealing personal information from hundreds of people and using it to create fake identification documents and counterfeit checks that were then passed at retail stores to purchase expensive merchandise that was subsequently returned to the stores for cash. The counterfeit checks were also passed at various banks where co-conspirators deposited the checks into the accounts of unsuspecting victims and then withdrew money from those same accounts.

Maxwell is the latest individual to plead guilty and accept responsibility for her role in this multi-state identity theft ring. Sixteen of her co-conspirators have already entered guilty pleas: Yesterday, Kelly Jenelle Scott pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Robin Dawn Finger, Russell Raymond Royals, Brianna Marie Blegen, Kevin Terrell Martin, Melissa Jean Beaman, Majorie Marie Neely, Francis Emily Jones, Christeena Janell Barker, Jamie Hubert Branson, Darryl Alan Bryant, Jacqueline Cleveland, and Ginger Loucina Halliburton have all pleaded guilty to the same two charges. On September 29, 2011, Lee Vang pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of aggravated identity theft. On July 20, 2011, Brianna Marie Darwin pleaded guilty to the same two counts. Patricia Grace Pnewski pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Ten other co-conspirators have pleaded not guilty to charges ranging from bank fraud and aggravated identity theft to money laundering and await trial. Their trial is currently scheduled for August 20, 2012.
For her crimes, Maxwell faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Judge Magnuson will determine her sentence at a future hearing, not yet scheduled.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen B. Schommer.

The Financial Crimes Task Force was established pursuant to state law and is comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement investigators, who are dedicated to combating the growing problem of cross-jurisdictional financial crimes. The task force, which is overseen by an advisory board also created under state law, serves the entire District of Minnesota, presenting its cases to county or federal prosecutors, as appropriate.

The task force and the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office want to remind people to protect themselves from identity theft. For more information, visit

The IRS-Criminal Investigation Division also urges citizens to review the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, which can be found at

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