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Prolific Fraudster Sentenced to Statutory Maximum Federal Sentence

May 19, 2022

READ FULL ARTICLE AT » Department of Justice

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Charice Unruh, 42, of Spokane, Washington, was sentenced today in federal court in Spokane. Senior Judge Wm. Fremming Nielsen sentenced Unruh to 48 months in federal prison, the highest sentence available under federal law. Judge Nielsen also sentenced Unruh to another year of incarceration, to be served concurrently, because she committed this crime while already on federal supervised release for her prior criminal conduct. Judge Nielsen also imposed 48 months of supervised release, to begin running when Unruh is released from custody.

In February 2022, Unruh pleaded guilty to Unlawful Use of the United States Mails, after an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”). The investigation began when a keen Postal Inspector noticed a package addressed to Unruh while conducting a routine review of parcels coming into Spokane. The Inspector recognized Unruh’s name from a previous USPIS investigation in which Unruh was convicted and sentenced to federal prison in connection with her role in an identity theft ring. The package addressed to Unruh had several indicators consistent with packages that contain contraband, and the Inspector obtained a federal search warrant for it. The search revealed methamphetamine in the package.

The Postal Inspector removed the actual methamphetamine and replaced it with a noncontraband substance before setting up a controlled delivery of the parcel to Unruh. Unruh retrieved the package and was immediately contacted by the Inspector. USPIS then executed a search warrant at Unruh’s Spokane-area apartment, and located multiple devices commonly used to engage in identity theft, as well as personal identification information for multiple individuals across the country.

In imposing the maximum available sentence, Judge Nielsen noted Unruh’s “disturbing” and “terrible” history with this type of crime. In her remarks to the Court, Unruh said she copes with life’s struggles by eating and using methamphetamine, and indicated that she was addicted to both. Judge Nielsen agreed, but stated Unruh was also addicted to stealing other people’s identities and personal information. Judge Nielsen noted that he did not believe Unruh properly considered or understood the impact of her actions on all the innocent people whose personal information she compromised.

serious punishment, as today’s sentence demonstrates,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “Our colleagues at USPIS work tirelessly to ensure not only the safe delivery of mail in this country, but to investigate identity theft, mailboxing, wire and bank fraud, and similar crimes. Identity theft costs victims money, time, stress, and can have lasting negative impacts on people’s lives. Even if victims of identity theft are made whole by banks, credit card companies, and other institutions, the costs associated with credit card fraud, bank fraud, and identity theft are distributed back across the entire law-abiding population, increasing everyone’s cost of living. I commend USPIS for their ongoing efforts to stymie both identity theft and the use of the U.S. mails to distribute drugs.”

“The U.S. Postal Service remains one of the most trusted entities in the country, and we work at every turn to protect the communities we serve. Preventing identity theft remains one of our top priorities,” said Inspector in Charge Anthony Galetti. “Every time I speak to a victim of identity theft, I am reminded of both the financial and mental toll this crime takes—innocent victims have to spend their time, energy, and resources to close fraudulent bank accounts, correct credit scores, and the like. A bank may return a victim’s money, but a bank can never give a victim back all the hours it takes to undo an identity thief’s work. We hope this sentencing brings justice to the victims of Unruh’s criminal activity and serves as a deterrent to others. I thank the U.S. Border Patrol and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance; it is partnerships across agencies that allow cases like this to be solved.”

This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the United States Border Patrol and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Assistant United States Attorney Caitlin A. Baunsgard of the Eastern District of Washington handled this matter on behalf of the United States.

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