Co-Conspirators Sentenced to Over 10 Years for Federal Bank Fraud and Stolen Mail Scheme
Fayetteville, Arkansas - Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced today that Shawn Dewayne Cox of Prairie Grove, Christopher Joseph Evans of Colcord, Oklahoma, Spencer Mason of Bentonville, and Erick Picker-Ramirez of Fayetteville were sentenced this week on one count each of Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud and Possession of Stolen Mail. Benjamin Ramsfield, of Greenland, had previously been sentenced to one count of Bank Fraud and one count of Possession of Stolen Mail. The Honorable Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearings in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.
U.S. Attorney Eldridge commented, “Fraud and theft of mail are serious crimes that involve the personal finances of hard-working individuals and can have long lasting impacts on numerous victims. We remain committed to investigating and prosecuting those who perpetrate fraud and swindle others out of their hard earned money.”
In June and July 2014, numerous persons in the Northwest Arkansas area began reporting to law enforcement that checks they had placed in the mail to pay bills were coming through their bank accounts with altered information. The checks had been altered to be made payable to people they did not know and for amounts other than the amounts the checks were made out for. On July 11, 2014, law enforcement obtained a search warrant for a residence in Springdale which they had identified being used to “wash” checks. During a search of that residence, law enforcement recovered numerous pieces of opened and unopened mail that was not addressed to any of the occupants or that address, multiple personal checks belonging to persons other than the occupants that had been “washed”, checks that had not been “washed” and were made payable to persons to other than the occupants, and chemicals commonly used in the “washing” process. The residence belonged to Spencer Mason and his girlfriend. Mason, Christopher Evans, and several others were at the residence at the time of the search.
Shawn Cox was arrested and during a post-Miranda interview admitted that he had been involved with other individuals in stealing checks from mailboxes in Northwest Arkansas, altering the stolen checks, and then cashing them at area banks. Cox estimated that he had passed 2-3 checks per day, and obtained $400-800 per check over the course of a few months, totaling approximately $24,000. After his arrest, Erick Picker-Ramirez admitted he had stolen numerous checks and “washed” them along with Cox, Mason and Evans. Mason admitted to stealing mail from residential mailboxes in the Northwest Arkansas area with Picker-Ramirez, Evans, and Cox. Evans also gave a post-Miranda statement admitting that he had stolen mail from approximately 100 residential mailboxes in the Northwest Arkansas area along with Mason and Picker-Ramirez. All of the banks where the checks were passed were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. During the investigation of that mail theft ring law enforcement identified another group operating in the same area during the same time, the leader of which was determined to be Benjamin Ramsfield. Investigators learned this group was operating out of a hotel room in Fayetteville and obtained a search warrant. During the search officers located a bleach pen and bleach, numerous pieces of stolen mail, and personal checks that had been “washed.” Ramsfield was arrested, interviewed, and admitted to stealing mail from area mailboxes in order to obtain personal checks. Ramsfield estimated he passed 40-50 checks and obtained approximately $20,000. Ramsfield also admitted to having several other individuals pass stolen and washed checks for him.
The defendants were sentenced as follows:
Shawn Dewayne Cox, age 31, of Prairie Grove, Arkansas was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $20,870.28 in restitution -jointly and severally with co-defendants.
Christopher Joseph Evans, age 31, of Colcord, Oklahoma was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $20,870.28 in restitution -jointly and severally with co-defendants, and $850 restitution.
Spencer Mason, age 34, of Bentonville was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $20,870.28 in restitution - jointly and severally with co-defendants.
Erick Picker-Ramirez, age 35, of Fayetteville, Arkansas was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $20,870.28 in restitution -jointly and severally with co-defendants.
Benjamin David Ramsfield, age 34, of Greenland, was charged separately and sentenced on May 15, 2015 to 41 months imprisonment, three years supervised release, and $8,353.82 restitution.
These cases were investigated by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Fayetteville Police Department, the United States Postal Service and the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorney, Aaron Jennen prosecuted the cases for the United States.
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Related court documents may be found on Public Access to Electronic Records Website @www.Pacer.gov