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MailTribune.com
  • Mail-theft ringleader sentenced to prison

  • A Medford man who was the ringleader of what investigators called Southern Oregon's largest mail-theft, identity-theft and bank-fraud ring was sentenced Tuesday to 13 years and five months in federal prison.
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  • A Medford man who was the ringleader of what investigators called Southern Oregon's largest mail-theft, identity-theft and bank-fraud ring was sentenced Tuesday to 13 years and five months in federal prison.
    Robert Lee Powelson, 30, and his partners in crime stole thousands of pieces of mail from several hundred homes and businesses in the region between September 2012 and March 2013, court records show.
    Powelson was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Medford for conspiracy to commit mail theft, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
    According to a pre-sentence interview document provided to the court, Powelson's criminal activity was "driven by his addiction to methamphetamine."
    According to court records, there were more than 845 local mail theft victims, and at least 2,000 pieces of mail were stolen.
    On Monday, a pair of his co-conspirators, 32-year-old Dallas Lee Tedford of White City and 23-year-old Kayla Strange of Medford, were convicted on the same charges. All three were ordered to pay $70,380.09 each in restitution to the victims of the fraud.
    Tedford was sentenced to a little more that three and a half years in prison, and Strange was sentenced to a little more than four years in prison, a U.S. Department of Justice news release said.
    The thieves utilized financial and identity information from the stolen mail to forge and cash checks, apply for credit cards and open American Express Bluebird reloadable cards in the names of their victims, the release said.
    "American Express Bluebird Card played a significant role in the mail theft, identity theft and mail fraud activity," according to a court sentencing memorandum.
    According to court documents, Tedford would electronically load stolen checks onto numerous Bluebird cards with a smart phone using the Bluebird Mobile Application.
    "Tedford apparently introduced Robert Powelson to stealing mail by walking around the neighborhood where they lived and steal(ing) mail," court documents say.
    Strange documented stolen identity information of the group's victims in notebooks for future use, the release said.
    The release said investigators tracked back at least $214,697 in fraudulent transactions on credit cards stolen by the group, which included Medford residents Eduardo Navarro, 24, and Lanna Marshall, 29. Navarro and Marshall are scheduled to be sentenced within weeks, the release show.
    Powelson led police on two high-speed chases while he was involved in stealing mail, prosecutors said in the release. At the culmination of one pursuit, police found 12 credit and debit cards and 84 pieces of stolen mail, including checks, checkbooks, and financial and tax documents such as W-2's and 1099 forms belonging to 81 Medford victims. Another chase led police to a motel room that held about 1,000 pieces of stolen mail belonging to around 365 individuals and businesses from the Medford area.
    Police executed search warrants for three motel rooms, two vehicles and two residences in the Rogue Valley during the investigation, the release said.
    Medford police presented the case to a Jackson County Grand Jury in June, identifying more than a dozen people suspected of working with the masterminds.
    In July, Medford police said they had arrested close to two dozen suspects who were a part of the ploy, noting that more than 1,000 people had their mail stolen by those suspects.
    One strategy the suspects used time and again was to open a fraudulent bank account and apply for an ATM card. They would then run up as many charges as they could before the bank put a hold on the account for suspicion of fraudulent activity.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @swhlr.
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