Ringleader and Co-Conspirators Sentenced to Federal Prison in Mail Theft and Bank Fraud Scheme
More Than 2,000 Pieces Of Stolen Mail Recovered Belonging to Over 845 Mail Theft Victims
MEDFORD, Ore. – Robert Lee Powelson, 30, Medford, Oregon was sentenced Tuesday to 161 months in federal prison by Senior U.S. District Judge Owen M. Panner after his convictions for, and his leadership role in, conspiracy to commit mail theft, conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Dallas Lee Tedford, 32, and Kayla Ann Strange, 23, both of Medford, were sentenced to federal prison Monday by U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane for their convictions for conspiracy to commit mail theft, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Tedford was sentenced to 44 months; Strange was sentenced to 50 months. As part of each sentence, each defendant received a mandatory consecutive term of two years in prison required by federal statute where a victim’s identification was possessed or used in committing bank or mail fraud. Each defendant was also ordered to pay $70,380.09 in restitution to victims of the fraud.
Between September 2012 and March 2013, Powelson, Tedford, Strange, and other conspirators, repeatedly stole large quantities of U.S. mail from residents and businesses in the Medford, Oregon area. After stealing the mail, they removed financial instruments, financial documents, and identity documents of victims, and collected personal identifiers from those documents to create profiles of victims to further their fraud schemes. The fraud schemes included forging and cashing or depositing stolen personal checks into bank accounts defendants controlled; applying for and controlling credit card accounts in the names of victims; taking control of checking accounts of victims; and opening American Express Bluebird reloadable cards in the names of victims. As part of the bank fraud scheme, victim identities from the stolen mail were used to obtain fraudulent credit cards which were mailed to residences where the defendants retrieved and used them.
According to sentencing documents submitted by AUSA Byron Chatfield, a total of seven search warrants were executed at three motels, two vehicles, and two residences in the Medford area during the investigation. One of the victims had just recently moved from the state of Alaska to Ashland, Oregon to be with family and friends because of terminal cancer, and died while unknowingly being victimized by the defendants and the other co-conspirators. Another victim learned that their personal identifying information was being used in the fraud scheme while they were with their sick child at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. As a result, the victim’s family experienced financial problems with their bank accounts and credit cards during a required lengthy stay with their child at Doernbecher’s.
Powelson also eluded police in two separate high-speed vehicle pursuits while involved in stealing mail. The subsequent search of the car Powelson and Strange used to elude police following one pursuit uncovered 12 financial account cards and 84 pieces of stolen mail including checks, check books, and financial and tax documents such as W-2’s and 1099 forms belonging to 81 Medford victims. The identity documents and checks recovered from the vehicle were collected together by Strange after they had been stolen from the mail. Also, Strange documented stolen victim identifying information in notebooks for future use. Following the second high speed pursuit, police found Powelson along with other associates at a local motel and upon searching their room police seized approximately 1,000 pieces of stolen mail belonging to approximately 365 individuals and businesses from the Medford area.
During a search of a residence where Strange and Powelson received mail and credit cards in victim’s names, police recovered 300 pieces of stolen mail including financial and tax information and 128 stolen checks that belonged to 161 victims from the Medford area. Police also discovered cell phone text messages between Tedford and another co-conspirator with instructions about how to activate a victim’s stolen credit card. A later search of Tedford’s apartment by police recovered a large quantity of stolen mail, victim identity profiles, 138 stolen and altered checks, and American Express Bluebird cards.
Numerous fraudulent checks seized from Tedford’s apartment had been loaded and reloaded on multiple Bluebird cards through smart phone imagery. Often the checks were altered in between load attempts in an effort to deceive the check scanning software and/or manual review of the checks at the time the checks were uploaded. Fraudulent Bluebird cards were also recovered during several of the other search warrants and intercepted from the mail stream destined for addresses used by Powelson, Strange, and Tedford for the fraud. Many of the fraudulent Bluebird cards were determined to be related through shared account information, card-to-card transactions, the use of the same email addresses, and the loading of fraudulent checks through smart phone imagery. Transaction analysis related to those cards disclosed a total attempted fraud of at least $214,697.
The other federally charged defendants, Eduardo Navarro, 24, and Lana Marshall, 29, both of Medford, Oregon, are scheduled to be sentenced within the next few weeks.
This case was investigated by the Medford Police Department, Talent Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Byron Chatfield.