BILLINGS - The leader of a fraudulent check scheme in which recruits would steal items with personal information from homes, vehicles and mailboxes to help pass bogus checks across Montana was sentenced Tuesday to 44 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.
Cassie Ann Rathie, 32 of Billings, pleaded guilty in April to wire fraud and to aggravated identity theft, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
“Rathie recruited local drug addicts to burglarize houses, automobiles, and mailboxes and steal mail and other materials so she could fraudulently cash checks using the victim’s stolen identification. They stole and converted amounts that they knew would not attract the attention of local law enforcement. This type of criminal behavior exploits the fringes of our justice system. It is dangerous enough to get someone killed, yet it is not serious enough to warrant significant local incarceration,” Acting U.S. Attorney Johnson said in the release.
The government alleged in court documents that from November 2019 until about May 2020, Rathie conducted a campaign to steal checks and personal identifying information to commit fraud using fake checks in Billings and throughout the state.
Rathie instructed others to break into houses, vehicles, and mailboxes to get checks and other items with personal identifying information. Other addicts knew Rathie was interested in materials and would either sell or give her the documents they stole.
During this period, Rathie stole a box from a Billings hotel containing documents with personal identifying information from at least 39 people.
After obtaining a stolen check, Rathie altered it by replacing the original name on the check with one of the names from the identities she had stolen from the hotel or elsewhere. Rathie would then create a fake driver’s license with the stolen person’s name.
The fake license would have Rathie’s image or the image of an associate. Rathie or an associate would then pass the check at local businesses and use it to buy gift cards or high-value items.
Rathie would give individuals who stole the materials a cut of the proceeds.
Surveillance video recorded Rathie passing some of the fake checks. In a search of her residence, officers found a large trove of fake identities, stolen documentation, computer, printers, and stolen checks. The loss calculated from checks passed by Rathie was $17,609.
U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided over the case. Rathie was allowed to self-report to prison.
Two co-defendants also convicted, Taylor Thomas Nelson and Quinn Henry Jessen, are pending sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin M. Rubich prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Billings Police Department, and the Department of Homeland Security.