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Forest Park woman sentenced in federal court

A Forest Park woman was sentenced, Tuesday, to 10 years in prison for stealing corporate identities and getting credit on their behalf, after serving a term in federal prison on an unrelated fraud conviction.

Lisa Lee, 51, pleaded guilty in August to federal conspiracy, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges. Senior U.S. District Court Judge J. Owen Forrester sentenced Lee to 10 years and one month in prison, followed by five years on supervised release. Forrester also ordered Lee to repay $561,019.29 in restitution to about 20 different victims.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said Lee’s return to criminal conduct after her release from prison sealed her lengthy sentence. “After being released from prison following a sentence for another federal fraud conviction, this defendant went right back to defrauding others by hijacking corporate identities and obtaining credit on behalf of those corporations,” said Yates. “Lee’s persistent fraudulent conduct demanded the lengthy sentence imposed on her today.”

Yates said that in 2004, Lee was sentenced to 18 months in prison for a federal fraud conviction in the Northern District of Georgia and was released from federal custody in November 2006.

Until her arrest in December 2008 for violating the terms of her release from federal custody, Lee engaged in a complex scheme to steal corporate identities and use the stolen identities to obtain loans, lines of credit and other services, said Yates.

“Specifically, Lee took steps to bring defunct or inactive companies back into existence, including by filing registration documents online with the Georgia Secretary of State to include Lee’s name or other participants working with Lee as corporate officers for the businesses,” she said. “Lee filed these documents without the knowledge of the defunct and inactive corporations.”

Yates said Lee also established mailing and e-mail addresses, opened checking accounts with minimal deposits, and took other actions to make the businesses appear active. Then, Lee opened or modified existing credit information for the stolen corporate identities at a business credit information company, including by submitting false financial statements and tax returns.

Once the businesses were set up, Lee submitted credit and loan applications to lenders and retail establishments, applying for, or receiving, approximately $1 million in new loans and lines of credit. Lee received a fee for setting up the businesses and obtaining the loans and lines of credit. The other participants working with Lee received the remaining fraudulent proceeds.

Keith Morris, postal inspector in charge of the Atlanta division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said the verdict should send a clear signal.

“The Postal Inspection Service’s message has been the same for over 200 years, the use of the U.S. mails to defraud the American public will not be tolerated,” said Morris. “Let’s hope this defendant gets the message this time.”

In general, Lee recruited unwitting participants in the scheme under the guise of business development services, said Yates.

“The participants had poor personal credit and were looking for a way to obtain loans and lines of credit for which they would not be personally responsible,” she said. “Lee, however, controlled every aspect of the scheme, recruited the participants and directed those participants’ activities.”

Lee’s scheme lasted more than two years, during which she repeatedly submitted false information to her probation officer to avoid detection, including fake employment documents and false residential information.

In December 2008, officers with the U.S. Probation Office searched Lee’s residence and office. During the search, probation officers found records from a business credit information agency and the Georgia Secretary of State for hundreds of businesses. Lee had used at least 30 of these businesses in her scheme.

This prosecution was the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service with assistance from the U.S. Probation Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Oldham prosecuted the case.