3 sentenced in 500-victim Anchorage mail fraud scheme
All three people charged in an Anchorage mail fraud scheme involving hundreds of victims last year have been sentenced in federal court, prosecutors say.
Ronald Travis Hecker was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason to three and a half years in prison, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney for Alaska Bryan Schroder’s office. Hecker’s wife Amber Hecker, the alleged ringleader of the conspiracy, received the same term last month after both pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of stolen mail.
A third conspirator, Richard Hoglin, was sentenced to two years and three months in prison after pleading guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The arrests in the case were announced by federal prosecutors in April 2018.
The year-long scheme, which began in April 2017, involved the use of convenience checks stolen from Bank of America, Capital One and Citibank mail.
“The stolen identities used by Ronald Hecker and his co-conspirators to pass the stolen checks came from committing vehicle break-ins, as well as backpack and purse snatching from places like Chuck E. Cheese and daycare centers,” prosecutors wrote. “They would then falsely alter the stolen checks to deposit them in the accounts associated with the stolen identities and then make cash withdrawals.”
The checks were made out to be payable to other victims of identity theft, whose names the defendants used to receive the money in transactions at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union.
After Ronald Hecker’s arrest, prosecutors said Amber Hecker enlisted Hoglin to steal mail and pass stolen checks at Alaska USA. He successfully completed nine transactions in March 2018, helping Amber deposit $9,425 in stolen and forged checks as well as withdrawing $4,600 in cash.
“In addition to the stolen identifications used in the approximately 88 fraudulent transactions during the course of the conspiracy, Ronald and Amber Hecker also had stolen identification information including Social Security cards, identification cards, and credit cards, of approximately 500 victims,” prosecutors wrote. “This was the largest amount of victims impacted by a mail theft ring in Alaska. The investigation revealed that the total loss amount during the course of the conspiracy was $81,342.”
Ronald Hecker’s attorney, Ben Crittenden, said in a sentencing memo that his client, also known by his middle name, once had steady work as a carpenter. He grew up in an alcoholic home, however, leaving him prone to the substance abuse which drove his crimes when he was prescribed drugs after a 2012 surgery — starting with opiates that year and expanding to heroin in 2015.
“Travis looked for an escape in alcohol and drugs. He found it in painkillers that developed into a full-blown addiction to opiates and heroin,” Crittenden wrote.
A sentencing memo from Aunnie Steward, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, sought a 51-month sentence for Ronald Hecker. She said the defendants’ actions eroded community trust, emphasized the scheme’s effects on victims from hours spent unraveling identity-theft cases to picking up mail at post offices for fear of its theft.
“It is hard to fathom how defendants can plan and carry out the theft of over 500 identities and 88 transactions of fraud and not have any concern for their victims,” Steward wrote. “Substance abuse is a problem. But instead of seeking treatment, the defendants in this case victimized hundreds of their fellow community members. This behavior cannot solely be attributed to drug addiction.”
The case was investigated by both Anchorage and Anchorage airport police, along with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Upon his release, Ronald Hecker will spend three years on supervised release.
Janis Harper contributed information to this story.
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