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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Albuquerque Woman Sentenced to Twenty-Five Months in Federal Prison for Conviction on Aggravated Identity Theft Charges

ALBUQUERQUE – Shelly Nichols, 43, of Albuquerque, N.M., was sentenced this afternoon to 25 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for her conviction on aggravated identity theft charges.  Nichols, together with her co-defendant, also was ordered to pay $141,233.57 in restitution.

Nichols, who is now known by her married name Shelly Lopez, and her co-defendant, Donna Gabaldon, 42, of Rio Rancho, N.M., were charged in March 2012, in a 60-count indictment alleging identity theft, passing counterfeit checks with the intent to deceive bank officials, and aggravated identity theft charges. 

Nichols pleaded guilty to one count of identity theft and two counts of aggravated identity theft charges on May 16, 2013.  In entering her guilty plea, Nichols admitted that from Oct. 2009 through June 2010, she and Gabaldon cashed fake payroll checks at Wal-Mart stores in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Texas.  According to her plea agreement, Nichols created fake drivers’ licenses with false names, addresses and license numbers that had photographs of herself or Gabaldon on them.  Nichols also created fake checks made payable to the individuals identified in the fake drivers’ licenses.  Nichols and Gabaldon then used the fake drivers’ licenses to cash the fake checks at Wal-Mart stores.  When cashing the fake checks, Nichols and Gabaldon used the social security numbers of real people who did not know the women were using their social security numbers and had not given them permission to do so.  Gabaldon gave Nichols half of the money that she obtained from cashing the fake checks.

Nichols also admitted that Gabaldon and she fraudulently received at least $141,233.57 by cashing fake payroll checks at Wal-Mart stores.  Nichols and Gabaldon obtained additional cash and other items of value by making purchases using fake personal checks that Nichols printed.

Gabaldon pleaded guilty on May 25, 2012, to two counts of aggravated identity theft.  On Sept. 19, 2012, Gabaldon was sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by a year of supervised release.

Nicholas and Gabaldon are required jointly to pay $141,233.57 in restitution to the victims of their criminal conduct.  Nichols also was ordered to forfeit a 2009 Hummer, computers and other electronic equipment.

“Shelly Nichols was a top five Property Crime Offender in the city of Albuquerque and State of New Mexico when she was arrested in this case,” said Richard Ferretti, Resident Agent in Charge of the Albuquerque Resident Office of the U.S. Secret Service.  “Identity theft related investigations are a top priority of the U.S. Secret Service in Albuquerque, and we work closely with our partners in the Albuquerque Financial Crimes Task Force to aggressively investigate, arrest, and prosecute those committing these crimes.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough commended the U.S. Secret Service special agents who investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia L. Weisman who prosecuted the case.

Updated January 26, 2015