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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Montana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Washington Woman Sentenced For Conspiring To Pass Counterfeit Money Orders

HELENA - Kelly Lorraine Watts, a 46-year old resident of Renton, Washington, was sentenced today for conspiracy to utter and possess forged securities with intent to deceive an organization. Watts was sentenced after pleading guilty on May 20, 2014. Watts was sentenced 18 months in prison 3 years supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $30,360 in restitution.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Spraker, the government told the court that in August 2013, James Hernandez and Kelly Watts were arrested in Butte after Hernandez was caught attempting to pass a counterfeit money order. Law enforcement questioned Hernandez and Watts leading to the discovery that they had been passing counterfeit money orders to obtain goods and services in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana from December 2012 until they were arrested.

Law Enforcement officers searched Hernandez's truck and discovered a number of contraband including 70 money grams in envelopes with a woman's handwriting on the outside; several cashed money grams; a ledger in a woman's handwriting listing the names of casinos and stores; computer software, paper, and cutting material commonly used to manufacture counterfeit money orders; and five Washington driver's licenses with Hernandez's picture, each with a different name.

A search of Watts' purse revealed loadable debit cards. During the investigation, Watts stated that she kept a ledger of locations where she and Hernandez cashed money orders and the orders' amounts. Several stores identified in receipts were contacted by law enforcement. It was discovered that fraudulent money orders had been used to purchase goods and services throughout Montana.

In addition, the investigation revealed that Hernandez had been manufacturing fraudulent money orders from November 2012 until their arrest in August 2013. Watts and Hernandez traveled to Hillsboro, Pendleton and Ontario, Oregon, Vancouver, Washington, and Kalispell while cashing money orders at various stores and casinos. After purchasing merchandise using the fraudulent money orders, Watts and Hernandez would wait a period of time before returning the items for cash.

The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Secret Service.

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Updated January 14, 2015