SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An Escondido woman was sentenced to five years in federal prison Thursday for engaging in a $17 million dollar Internet fraud scheme that preyed on website users looking for work, to purchase and sell items, and rent and buy property.
Kathleen Wurts, 54, pleaded guilty last April to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud.
According to court documents, 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.
Once received, Wurts created hundreds of fraudulent checks using the stolen bank account numbers.
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, according to prosecutors.
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 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.
Prosecutors said 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 the fraudulent monetary instruments to victims and paid more than $13,000 for the postage using stolen credit card numbers.