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Press Release

ID Thieves Sentenced to Prison for Scheme Targeting Unemployment Benefits and Credit Unions

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Used Stolen Personal Information to Claim Benefits and Open Fraudulent Accounts

          A pair of identity thieves who methodically stole and used victims’ personal information to steal more than $350,000 were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. RYDER COLIN GUTHRIE, 32, and MICHELLE NICOLE HUDSON, 33, were arrested in August 2016, following an investigation that revealed they had used stolen identities to claim more than $50,000 in unemployment benefits and had defrauded multiple credit unions of more than $300,000. GUTHRIE was sentenced to 52 months in prison and HUDSON was sentenced to 48 months in prison. Both are responsible for $363,101 in restitution. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said, “For four years these defendants lived the high life by using other people’s money… (They) attacked (the victims’) character, their reputation and their assets by a non-violent but equally destructive means.”

          “By some estimates, 7% of all U.S. residents age 16 or older, experience at least one incident of identity theft a year,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Identity theft takes an emotional and financial toll, and all of us pay more because of these frauds. As today’s sentencing demonstrates, the thieves who engage in this crime face significant federal sentences.”

          According to records filed in the case, working out of motels in western Washington, Oregon and northern California, the pair stole identity information of friends and relatives, former employees of a defunct business, and credit union employees. Using advanced data-mining techniques, the pair built detailed credit profiles of the victims which they used to submit fraudulent unemployment benefit claims, and to create and access new and existing accounts under the victims’ names at credit unions. The pair wrote fraudulent checks to inflate the balances in the credit union accounts, and then withdrew cash at ATMs before the checks bounced. The pair also accessed and drained legitimate accounts belonging to the victims. When the pair fled from a motel in Fife, Washington they left behind a laptop containing credit profiles and other evidence of their many frauds.

          GUTHRIE and HUDSON each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in November 2016.

          The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, Washington State Employment Security, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the Puyallup and Fife Police Departments.

          The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Francis Franze-Nakamura.

Updated February 21, 2017

Identity Theft