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Press Release

California Man Pleads Guilty to Multi-State Bank Fraud Scheme

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

Defendant and Co-Conspirators Used Counterfeit Debit Cards
To Defraud a Financial Institution of $30,505.52

ALBUQUERQUE – Kevin Cohn, 31, of Rialto, Calif., pleaded guilty this morning to conspiracy to commit bank fraud under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  Cohn is the third member of the conspiracy to enter a guilty plea in the case.

Cohn’s co-defendants, Denny Smith, 50, of Hesperia, Calif., and Michael Anthony Bjornethun, 40, of Riverside, Calif., were charged with bank fraud offenses in a criminal complaint filed on Jan. 13, 2014.  The two subsequently were indicted on Jan. 22, 2014, and charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and five counts of bank fraud. 

Cohn was added as a defendant to the case in a 12-count superseding indictment filed on March 26, 2014.  Count 1 of the indictment charged Smith and Cohn with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and Count 2 charged Smith and Bjornethun with the same offense.  Counts 3 through 12 charged the three men with individual bank fraud offenses.  According to the superseding indictment and other court filings, Cohn, Smith and Bjornethun perpetuated a scheme in Jan. 2014 to defraud a bank by using counterfeit debit cards to purchase items from U.S. Post Offices in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. 
This morning, Cohn pled guilty to Count 1 of the superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.  In entering his guilty plea, Cohn admitted that in Jan. 2014, he traveled with Smith from California to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, where they visited various post offices and purchased stamps, gift cards and other items with counterfeit debit cards.  Cohn admitted that the purpose of the trip was to commit fraud.   In his plea agreement, Cohn admitted that he and his co-conspirators perpetuated fraud in the amount of $30,505.52 during the life of their bank fraud scheme.

Cohn has been in federal custody since his arrest in Sept. 2014, and remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.  At sentencing, Cohn faces a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.  Cohn, together with his co-defendants, will be required to pay restitution in the amount of $30,505.52 to the U.S. Postal Service as part of his sentence.    

Cohn’s co-defendants previously entered guilty pleas and have been sentenced.  Smith entered a guilty plea on June 24, 2014, to Counts 1 and 2 of the superseding indictment, and was sentenced on Aug. 25, 2014, to 27 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.  Bjornethun plead guilty to the original indictment without the benefit of a plea agreement on March 19, 2014.  On June 30, 2014, Bjornethun was sentenced to 172 days of time served followed by two years of supervised release.

            This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistants U.S. Attorney Samuel A. Hurtado and C. Paige Messec.

Updated January 26, 2015