SAN DIEGO (CN) - A 54-year-old Escondido woman was sentenced Thursday to five years in federal prison for a $17 million Internet fraud.
Kathleen Wurts pleaded guilty in April 2012 to conspiring to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
"In her plea, Wurts admitted that through at least April 2010, she engaged in a conspiracy to defraud individuals who used Internet websites (such as Craigslist and Yahoo!) to find employment, purchase and sell items, and rent and purchase real property," the U.S. attorney said in a statement.
"Wurts' co-conspirators mailed her counterfeit money orders and travelers' checks from outside the United States (Nigeria, Abu Dhabi, and the United Kingdom) and provided her with stolen bank account and credit card numbers via emails and chat logs."
Wurts then "created hundreds of fraudulent checks using the stolen bank account numbers," according to the U.S. attorney. "She then mailed the counterfeit money orders, travelers' checks, and fraudulent checks to the victims using stolen credit card information to pay for the postage. The victims generally expected to receive a fixed amount for, as an example, the items they were selling. However, Wurts mailed them a money order, travelers' check, or check in an amount that exceeded the asking price. The victims were then directed to deposit the monetary instruments into their own accounts, keep a certain percentage 'for their trouble' and wire-transfer the excess portion of the stolen amount to an overseas account.
"Wurts received more than $800,000 in counterfeit money orders and travelers' checks and created more than $17.2 million in fraudulent checks using stolen bank account numbers. Wurts mailed these fraudulent monetary instruments to victims and paid more than $13,000 for the postage using stolen credit card numbers."
Because of the complexity of the scam, U.S. District Judge John Houston found that the restitution she will have to pay is indeterminate.