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Press Release

Aggravated Identity Theft Initiative addresses fraud, property crime in Billings community

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

BILLINGS — An initiative by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Billings Police Department to catch those who steal personal information and use it to commit fraud in the community has resulted in dozens of federal prosecutions and mandatory federal prison sentences, federal and local law enforcement officials announced today.

Since September 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has indicted 33 defendants, the majority of whom are Billings-area residents, on fraud and aggravated identity theft charges. Of those, 20 defendants have been convicted and sentenced to a total of more than 54 years in prison, with prison terms ranging from 18 months to 65 months. Six defendants are pending sentencing and seven defendants are awaiting trial. The total loss amount for all sentenced cases is approximately $272,061, while a total of approximately $217,942 in restitution to victims has been ordered.

U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich and Billings Police Chief Rich St. John, joined by Homeland Security Investigations, discussed efforts to combat fraud and aggravated identity theft, along with related property and violent crime, at a news conference today at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Billings.

“Combatting violent crimes in Billings continues to be a top priority for our office, particularly when, as with these property and violent crime cases, they are driven by methamphetamine and fentanyl addictions,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.  “Many of these offenders have significant state criminal records but rarely received jail time in an overburdened state system.  By prosecuting fraud and aggravated identity theft crimes federally, defendants face mandatory minimum federal prison sentences and are subject to federal supervision after serving their time.  This initiative’s success reflects the effective and collaborative work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin M. Rubich and Billings Police Det. Mike Robinson, along with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, to investigate and prosecute these cases.  We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to hold offenders accountable and to help keep Billings safe.”

“This Initiative demonstrates the commitment to hold people accountable for widespread fraud that has affected so many victims.  Our offices will continue to work tirelessly to protect individuals and businesses from financial loss due to identity theft, and I thank our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations for their work in this area.  Like the Billings Police Department, they are dedicated to protecting citizens of Montana though public outreach and aggressive prosecution from identity thieves,” Billings Police Chief St. John said. 

The Aggravated Identity Theft Initiative was started to address an increase in property crime, including burglary, theft and fraud offenses, in the community, officials said. Drug addicts often commit property crimes to feed their addictions. Perpetrators seek anything of value to sell, especially high-value items, like stolen credit cards, checks and personal information. Offenders then use stolen personal information, checks and credit cards to defraud banks and businesses, while causing financial havoc for the victims whose identity was stolen.

Offenders commonly steal personal information by canvassing neighborhoods for unlocked vehicles or break into vehicles and search them for wallets, checkbooks and purses; stealing mail from mailboxes looking for credit cards, gift cards or checks; and by rifling through unlocked gym lockers in search of wallets. Unless a perpetrator is caught in the act, property crimes are difficult to solve and prosecute, and most are treated as misdemeanors with jail time rarely imposed. Offenders engaged in actual fraud, however, are more likely to get caught.

Law enforcement officials said they are fighting back by prosecuting offenders under federal fraud and aggravated identity theft statutes, where defendants face felony convictions and mandatory federal prison sentences. Aggravated identity theft, which is wrongfully using another person’s personal information in furtherance of fraud or deception, usually for financial gain, carries a punishment of a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence.

The initiative, officials said, not only holds offenders accountable for fraudulent schemes, but it also helps to relieve a strained state and local system by taking offenders off the streets and placing them in federal prison, where there is no parole. After prison, offenders are monitored though supervised release.

Some of the notable cases prosecuted in this initiative include:

  • Carl Mark Madden, of Billings, was sentenced to five years and five months in prison for wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and felon in possession of a firearm and ordered to pay restitution of $7,536, which was the loss amount. Madden defrauded local businesses by passing stolen and forged checks by using identification stolen from multiple victims. Surveillance video at a business caught Madden forging the signature of a victim on a check. When stopped for questioning by Billings police, Madden was in possession of a loaded and stolen pistol, which he was prohibited from having because of previous felony convictions.
  • Stacy Lee Milch, of Billings, was sentenced to five years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and ordered to pay $5,987 restitution. Milch defrauded a series of businesses, including a Red Lodge business, by passing stolen, forged and fraudulent checks to get money and goods. The loss amount was approximately $18,697.
  • Cassie Ann Rathie, of Billings, was sentenced to 44 months in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and ordered to pay $13,274 restitution. Rathie recruited local drug addicts to steal from homes, vehicles and mailboxes to get checks and other personal information. Rathie used the stolen information to create and cash fraudulent checks and gave individuals who stole the materials a cut of the proceeds. The loss amount was approximately $17,609.

Law enforcement officials encourage individuals to reduce the risk of property crime and to protect their personal information by not leaving valuables or personal information in vehicles, locking or securing vehicles or other storage areas, and reporting property crime to local law enforcement. In addition, officials urge identity theft victims to call the companies where the fraud occurred, place fraud alerts on accounts with one of the three credit bureaus, Experian.com/fraudalert, 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion.com/fraud, 1-800-680-7289 or Equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance, 1-888-766-0008; obtain credit reports from the credit bureaus; and report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at: IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338.

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Contact

Clair Johnson Howard
Public Affairs Officer
406-247-4623

Updated November 10, 2022

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Financial Fraud
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Release Number: 22-277