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Monona Walmart

A Missouri woman has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for an $860,000 fraud scheme that ended with her arrest by Monona police.

Heather Bishop, 31, Lee’s Summit, Missouri was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to 30 months in federal prison for conspiring with Crystal Austin, Shelly Scott, Jason Edge, and others to commit wire fraud throughout the country. Bishop was ordered to pay restitution to Walmart, Inc., in an amount to be determined after a hearing on Jan. 11, 2021.

Between Feb. 2017 and March 2018, Bishop, Austin, Scott, Edge and others conspired to defraud Walmart, Inc. through use of stolen personal checks, identity fraud, and methods to bypass electronic check authorization measures, resulting in a loss of over $860,000 to Walmart. according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which stated that the group used stolen identification cards of real people to perpetuate this fraud in 18 states, using more than 14 different stolen checking accounts. Bishop and other co-conspirators would present a stolen check and false identification at the time of payment, and when the check was declined, the person presenting the check would pretend to call the check authorization company, when in fact, they would call a co-conspirator. The co-conspirator would tell the clerk to accept the check, and the transaction would be complete.

Scott and Edge were arrested by Monona Police on Feb. 25, 2018, after Walmart employees became suspicious of their behavior. They were sentenced to 48 months in federal prison in November of 2018 after pleading guilty for their roles in this fraud scheme.

Heather Bishop and conspirators Crystal Austin and Jennifer Austin were charged in this conspiracy and arrested in December of 2019. Crystal Austin pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and was sentenced to 65 months in prison in September of 2020. Jennifer Austin has also agreed to plead guilty to the conspiracy and is scheduled for a guilty plea and sentencing hearing on Dec. 15.

In sentencing Bishop, Judge Conley noted that this conspiracy involved not only Walmart as a victim, but also those whose identities and bank accounts were used in the fraud. He noted that in Bishop’s case, her involvement seemed to be based on opportunity, family dysfunction, and anti-social personality and decision making. In choosing a sentence of 30 months, Judge Conley also recognized that Bishop was less culpable than the co-conspirators previously sentenced in this case.

The charges against Heather Bishop and her co-conspirators were the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Monona and Sun Prairie Police Departments, and police departments throughout the country, with the assistance of Walmart fraud investigators. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Przybylinski Finn.

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