Latest guilty plea is 17th in ID theft case

  • Article by: DAN BROWNING , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 12, 2012 - 10:54 PM

Along with her plea, the wife of one of the ring's alleged leaders agreed to help federal prosecutors.

The wife of a key figure allegedly behind a multistate identity theft ring pleaded guilty Thursday in St. Paul to participating in a money- laundering conspiracy and has agreed to help federal authorities in prosecuting her husband and others.

Cynthia Andrea Maxwell, 44, of St. Paul, was the 17th person to plead guilty in the case. Federal investigators allege that her husband, Steven L. Maxwell, 43, of St. Paul, and Russell R. Royals, 59, of Minneapolis, ran an operation that may have involved as many as 120 people.

The ring allegedly pilfered financial information and identities of hundreds of people from cars, businesses, trash cans and mailboxes, and obtained some information from bank employees. A former receptionist at the Minnesota Board of Psychology also lifted information for the ring from state licensing applications.

Using the pilfered data, ring members stole about $2 million from banks and retail businesses in at least 14 states, prosecutors say.

In her plea agreement, Cynthia Maxwell admitted to receiving a wire transfer of $600 from a co-conspirator in Iowa who obtained the money using counterfeit checks and fake IDs to buy items that were later returned for cash. The unidentified co-conspirator had previously received the bogus documents from Maxwell's husband, prosecutors say.

Cynthia Maxwell admitted to filling out counterfeit checks that were used by others in the conspiracy to obtain merchandise and cash. She also helped make fake IDs by signing blank cards with the names of identity theft victims. The plea agreement contemplates a sentence of eight to 14 months in prison, but that could be reduced if she provides substantial help to the government.

Maxwell was the second person to plead guilty in the case this week. Kelly Jenelle Scott, 43, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Ten others are scheduled to go to trial next month on charges ranging from bank fraud and aggravated identity theft to money laundering. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen B. Schommer is prosecuting the case, which resulted from an investigation by the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493

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