13 charged in $3.5 million mail & identity theft ring in Wichita

WICHITA, KAN. – Thirteen people are charged in a federal indictment unsealed today alleging they used stolen identities in an effort to spend or access more than $3.5 million of other people’s money and credit, Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said.

The indictment alleges the conspirators divided up the work of stealing from mailboxes, forging identification documents, obtaining fraudulent credit cards and shopping with stolen identities. Some of the conspirators are alleged to have been paid in drugs for their labor. Among the items purchased were a $43,500 Jaguar automobile and a $62,000 Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

inspectorThe joint federal and local investigation was based on the fact that as early as October 2013 the U.S. Postal Inspection Service recognized that a significant volume of mail was being stolen from blue postal collection boxes, residential mailboxes and mail rooms in the Wichita area.

The indictment alleges the conspirators:

  • Stole mail from the U.S. Postal Service’s blue boxes, a post office and residential customers’ mailboxes.
  • Altered checks.
  • Used stolen information to manufacture new checks.
  • Made purchases using altered and manufactured checks.
  • Created profiles of victims using information from stolen mail.
  • Obtained credit cards using stolen identities.
  • Manufactured false identification documents with stolen information including driver’s licenses.
  • Used stolen identities to obtain credit and merchandise based on the victims’ credit history and incomes.

The government alleges the loss in this matter is approximately $3.5 million.

The 50-count indictment includes charges of aggravated identity theft, trafficking in stolen identities, receipt of stolen mail, unlawful production of identity documents, conspiracy, bank fraud, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and firearms charges.

“This case highlights the importance of the strong working relationships among federal, state and local law enforcement,” said Inspector in Charge Craig Goldberg, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Denver Division. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to working with our partners to ensure the continued trust people place in the mail and protecting the public from financial victimization by enforcing the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal use.”

The following defendants are named in the indictment:

Samuel Below, 29, Phoenix, Ariz.

Chad Michael Abildgaard, 25, Goddard, Kan.

Krysalias Lynn Bernhardt, 20, Clearwater, Kan.

Jacob Michael Martin, 31, Wichita, Kan.

Melanie Marie Morey, 41, Wichita, Kan.

Jillian N. Parker, 34, Wichita, Kan.

Jeremy Peterson, 42, Wichita, Kan.

David Allen Babedew, 24, Wichita, Kan.

Dustin Michael Reida, 28, Wichita, Kan.

Thomas Rye, 36, Phoenix, Ariz.

Daniel Christian Thomas, 31, Wichita, Kan.

Justin Alan Vanley, Rose Hill, Kan.

Jacey Jane Vidricksen, 27, Goddard, Kan.

Upon conviction, the crimes carry the following penalties:

  • Conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine (counts one and 33): Not less than 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $10 million.
  • Conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and attempted bank fraud (counts two, six, 10, 12, 22, 25, 27, 29, 31, 40 and 43): Up to 30 years and a fine up to $1 million on each count).
  • Conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and receipt of stolen mail (count three): Up to five years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
  • Conspiracy to produce identification documents, production or use of identification documents (counts four, 13, 17, 32, and 50): Up to 15 years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
  • Unlawful possession of a firearm (counts five, eight and 11): Up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.
  • Aggravated identity theft (counts seven, 19, 21, 23, 38, 41, 44, 46, 47 and 48): A mandatory two years consecutive to the underlying offense and a fine up to $250,000.
  • Theft or receipt of stolen mail (counts nine, 24, 26, 28, 30, 39 and 42): Up to five years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
  • Possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine (count14): Up to 20 years and a fine up to $1 million.
  • Possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking (counts 15, 16, 34, and 35).
  • Possession of a stolen firearm (count 36): Up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.
  • Possession of an unregistered silencer (count 37): Up to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000.
  • Making a false statement during a federal investigation (count 49): Up to five years and a fine up to $250,000)

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department, the Wichita Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Barnett and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Metzger are prosecuting.

In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.