The scheme relied on personal checks processed as traveler's checks, which gave the crook time to get away.
A 38-year-old Minneapolis woman with a history of thefts, swindles and other property crimes was sentenced Thursday to 4¾ years in federal prison for her role in a bank fraud scheme that exploited Target Corp.'s payment procedures.
Jamee Leah Spillman admitted to making some bad decisions in her life and asked the judge for a lighter sentence.
"I'm really, really sorry from the bottom of my heart for the crimes that I've committed," she said. "I plan on being an asset to the community rather than a liability."
Her attorney, David Izek, said in court pleadings that Spillman was born James Stephen Wagner Jr. and is in the process of a sex change from male to female. Izek said Spillman suffers from gender-identity disorder and had a rough childhood. She was sexually abused by a school worker as a child, he said. Her parents split up when she was 3, and she was raised largely by a grandmother, Izek said.
"The tension in her identity led her to use many, many aliases and to hide her real being," Izek wrote.
"Beginning in April of 2010 she engaged in a scheme to purchase goods with bad checks by telling retail clerks to process her checks as a 'traveler's check,'" Izek wrote. That delayed the authorization process and gave Spillman time to leave the store. Checks were drawn on accounts that were closed or had insufficient funds. Often Spillman would return the goods for refunds, he said.
While the scheme involved mostly Target stores, many other businesses in and out of Minnesota were also defrauded, Izek said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Steinkamp argued for a five-year prison term, citing Spillman's criminal history. She has received only 22 months in prison for those earlier crimes, he argued, so it's time for a wake-up call.
U.S. District Judge David S. Doty sentenced Spillman to 57 months in prison and five years on supervised release, and to pay restitution of $261,177.55.
Dan Browning • 612-673-4493