YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A Stowe man was sentenced to three years in federal prison on Thursday for being involved in a fraud scheme involving several local Walmart stores.
Thirty-three-year-old John Lee Watkins was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio after Judge Bainta Y. Pearson pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Watkins was the final three convicted in the case. Valerie Marie Massonson of Henderson, Nevada and Terrell Tomlin of Ogden, Utah were also charged.
In addition to $325,413.68 in damages, a special assessment of $1,500 will also be paid.
According to court documents, the group is accused of defrauding banks by using money transfer service Walmart2Walmart.
Walmart’s money transfer service allows customers to initiate a money transfer at one store and have it picked up by someone else at another store in the United States.
Investigators say the three started sending money using each other’s bank cards or fictitious characters, and reported the money transfers to the cardholder’s bank as fraudulent and asked for a refund.
The transferred money is then collected at a Walmart location before the bank has a chance to investigate the “illegal” transfer.
Local stores targeted include Austintown, Liberty and Poland.
Michael Reiner contributed to this report.
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