Ham Lake woman pleads guilty to bank fraud, identity theft

A 25-year-old Ham Lake woman pleaded guilty June 6 in U.S. District Court in St. Paul to two felony charges for her role in a large-scale identity theft ring.

Brianna Marie Blegen entered guilty pleas to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and another count of aggravated identity theft before United States District Court Judge Paul Magnuson.

According to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Blegen admitted to illegally withdrawing $39,700 from bank customers’ accounts while she was a bank teller from March through October 2009. She was part of a larger scale identify theft ring responsible for stealing approximately $2 million from financial institutions and retail businesses in no fewer than 14 states.

Besides Blegen, 12 of her co-consiprators have already entered guilty pleas for their involvement in the crimes. Another dozen alleged co-conspirators entered not guilty pleas and are scheduled to go on trial in late August.

In her plea agreement, Blegen admitted that she provided her co-conspirators with bank customer information, including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and account numbers. The co-conspirators then used the stolen information to create counterfeit checks and fraudulent identification documents that were ultimately passed at banks and stores for cash.

Blegen also admitted to cashing counterfeit payroll checks, using the cash for her personal benefit as well as the benefit of her co-conspirators, according to the DOJ.

She was originally charged May 22. She will be sentenced at a later date. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit bank fraud is 30 years. There is a mandatory sentence of two years for identity theft, which would be served consecutively with whatever penalty she receives for the bank fraud charge.

The name of the bank Blegen worked at is not public information because the bank was a victim, according to Jeanne Cooney, director of community relations for the DOJ.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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