JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tom Larson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that an Osage Beach, Mo., woman has pleaded guilty in federal court to a scheme to use stolen mail and stolen identities to cash fraudulent checks at area banks.
Chrystal Lynn Bernstein, 27, of Osage Beach, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge William A. Knox on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Bernstein admitted that she engaged in a scheme to obtain stolen mail (including checks), then use stolen identities to cash and deposit the checks at several banks in Boone and Camden Counties from December 2016 to Feb. 16, 2017.
Bernstein opened accounts at Central Bank of the Lake of the Ozarks and at Landmark Bank in the names of persons whose names and Social Security numbers she obtained without their permission or knowledge. Bernstein admitted she altered the payee on some of the stolen checks she obtained in order to cash them in the names of a mother and daughter in California whose identities she had stolen. She also admitted that she deposited a stolen check into a fraudulent bank account that was opened under another person’s name. Bernstein also passed a bad check for $826 at a Columbia, Mo., business using a stolen identity.
The victims of Bernstein scheme sustained a total loss to date of approximately $13,947.
Bernstein was arrested during a traffic stop on Feb. 1, 2017, in Lake Ozark. She was in possession of a driver’s license, Social Security card and credit card bearing another person’s name. Bernstein was able to bond out and was released.
On Feb. 16, 2017, Bernstein attempted to cash a check at Central Bank. Bernstein was arrested as she returned to her residence, driving a vehicle with a reported stolen license plate. Law enforcement officers searched the vehicle and found checks and money orders in the trunk that had been stolen from two additional victims.
Under federal statutes, Bernstein is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole for bank fraud, plus a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in federal prison without parole for aggravated identity theft. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence E. Miller. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Columbia, Mo., Police Department, the Lake Ozark, Mo., Police Department, the Osage Beach, Mo., Police Department, the Camdenton, Mo., Police Department and the Boone County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.