Bad check scheme sends Great Falls man to prison

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

GREAT FALLS  — A Great Falls man who admitted to defrauding others in a bad check scheme was sentenced today to one year in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for convictions in two separate cases, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Mickey James Buchholz, 35, pleaded guilty in February to wire fraud, and today, he pleaded guilty to wire fraud as charged in a subsequent case.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Chief Judge Morris followed a plea agreement in which the parties recommended the two cases be joined and a global sentence of 12 months in prison be imposed. Chief Judge Morris ordered restitution totaling $747.

The government alleged in court documents that in 2019 and 2020, Buchholz became involved with his co-defendant, Rachel Abbott, in a fraudulent check scheme. Abbott used fake identification cards, stolen checks and check printing software and materials to create new checks with valid account numbers. Another individual would make fake identification cards for Abbott and Buchholz that contained real identities with their pictures. Buchholz then altered the payee line on valid checks to reflect himself and forged the checks for payment. Abbott was sentenced in March to 26 months in prison for conviction in the case.

After pleading guilty in the first case, the government alleged that Buchholz continued to commit wire fraud. Between January and April, Buchholz cashed or attempted to cash four additional stolen or forged checks in an account he opened in June 2021. One of the checks was written by a Jane Doe to Meals on Wheels to pay for meals for Doe’s elderly mother. Buchholz affected dozens of victims, impersonated numerous real individuals and passed hundreds of dollars in forged checks for his own personal gain. The victims suffered financial loss and face a lifetime of monitoring whether someone is using their personal information, bank accounts and all other identifying data.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica A. Betley and Jeffrey K. Starnes prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI and Great Falls Police Department.

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