Albuquerque Woman Sentenced to Federal Prison for Bank Fraud and Identity Theft Conviction
ALBUQUERQUE – Christina Knight, 30, of Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced yesterday afternoon to 32 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for her conviction on bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.
Knight and her co-defendants, Raymundo Silva, 35, and Patricia Diaz, 36 both of Los Lunas, N.M., were indicted in Aug. 2013, on conspiracy, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges. The trio subsequently was charged in a 31-count superseding indictment alleging conspiracy to commit bank fraud; 24 counts of bank fraud, including eight counts against Silva, three counts against Diaz, and 13 counts against Knight; and six counts of aggravated identity theft against Knight.
The superseding indictment generally charged Silva, Diaz and Knight with engaging in a scheme to commit bank fraud between Dec. 2011 and April 2013. According to the superseding indictment, Knight, Silva and Diaz perpetuated the scheme by stealing checks from residential mailboxes, altering the names of payees and the amounts on the checks, and cashing the checks using either their own identities or, in the case of Knight, the identities of others.
Knight entered guilty pleas on Feb. 20, 2014, to the bank fraud conspiracy, 13 substantive bank fraud charges, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Earlier, on Oct. 28, 2013, Diaz entered a guilty plea to the bank fraud conspiracy and three substantive bank fraud charges. Silva was convicted on Feb. 27, 2014, on the bank fraud conspiracy and five substantive bank fraud charges after a four-day jury trial.
According to court records and trial evidence, in Dec. 2011, a Los Lunas police officer investigating a check washing and identity theft ring targeted a sedan seen leaving a Los Lunas bank following a failed attempt to cash a fraudulent check. In Feb. 2012, after surveillance established that the sedan frequently visited a residence in Belen, Los Lunas police officers executed a search warrant at the residence and seized chemicals and other products commonly used to wash and alter checks, several driver’s licenses, college IDs and Social Security cards, bank receipts and other evidence.
Investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Los Lunas Police Department identified Silva, Diaz and Knight as the members of the bank fraud scheme in late 2012, following the theft of five checks from the mailbox of a Los Lunas residence. Silva cashed one of the checks on Dec. 26, 2012, and between Dec. 20, 2012 and Jan. 4, 2013, Knight cashed three of the checks by using the identification of another person. Each of these four checks had been altered by changing the name of the payee and amount. Laboratory analysis by HSI revealed that the chemicals seized from Silva’s residence were used to wash the checks.
Silva was sentenced on Aug. 1, 2014, to 30 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release.
Diaz was sentenced on March 18, 2014, to 62 days of time-served followed by five years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $400.00 in restitution. On June 5, 2014, Diaz was arrested for violating the conditions of her supervised release. She was sentenced on July 10, 2014, to three months in custody followed by four years of supervised release.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of HIS, the Los Lunas Police Department and Albuquerque Police Department, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Norman Cairns and Paul Mysliwiec.