Informant who turned in bank fraud ring won't go to prison

  • Article by: DAN BROWNING , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2012 - 11:55 AM

Woman led authorities to key evidence in "Operation Starburst" investigation.

A woman credited with helping investigators bust a Minnesota-based bank fraud ring with nationwide operations was sentenced Thursday in federal court to five years of supervised release.

Angela Kay Grigsby, 49, of Minneapolis, led investigators to a storage locker packed with evidence, provided accurate information about how the identity-theft and bank fraud ring worked, and testified at a federal trial in Minneapolis that resulted in guilty verdicts for two ringleaders.

Investigators said the ring based its operations in Minnesota, California and New York and had as many as 200 members from coast to coast, including some Twin Cities bank employees. Many of the participants were originally from West Africa. More than two dozen people who have been publicly charged in the conspiracy have pleaded guilty. Three defendants remain fugitives.

Grigsby was a "runner" who opened bank accounts under stolen identities, made deposits of stolen or bogus checks, then withdrew the money for the ring. She pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended 57 to 65 months in prison.

F. Clayton Tyler, her attorney, had argued for a sentence of two years, citing her assistance in the case. She has been seeing a therapist, he said. And her imprisonment will be difficult for her family, as she provides daycare for her two grandchildren, he wrote in a court filing.

Prosecutors reported that Grigsby provided "substantial assistance" to the investigation, dubbed "Operation Starburst" by the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, an agency composed of federal, state and local law enforcement that specializes in complex, multi-jurisdiction investigations.

Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis sentenced Grigsby to the few months of jail time she had already served after her arrest, and placed her on supervised release. She also must pay restitution, but that amount has not yet been established.

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493

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