Tacoma woman who stole disabled veterans' identities sentenced to 4 years in prison

Staff writerJune 6, 2014 

A Tacoma woman who pleaded guilty to stealing the identities of two disabled veterans in order to obtain their federal benefits was sentenced Friday to four years in federal prison.

Rebecca Bjorneby, 32, pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts each of bank fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Federal prosecutors said Bjornbey illegally took more than $85,000 from those veterans and also victimized her grandmother and a former friend in what they described as sophisticated scheme.

Bjorneby used personal information from her victims to reroute their benefit payments to prepaid credit cards or set up fraudulent accounts in their names that she then used to obtain cash or pay her bills, court records show. Investigators found binders of information regarding her thieving activities, fake ID cards and other evidence when they raided her home last year.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marci Ellsworth said Bjorneby’s actions were motivated by “her staggering greed” and recommended a sentence of four years, three months in prison.

Bjorneby’s victims still are dealing with the aftermath of her fraud, Ellsworth said.

“They’re still fighting to get the Social Security checks that Rebecca Bjorneby stole,” she said.

Veterans Affairs investigator Dana Epperson told U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan that Bjorneby was the “most prolific and tenacious identity thief” he’s ever investigated.

Bjorneby’s attorney, federal defender Jerome Kuh, did not try to diminish his client’s actions, calling them “serious offenses,” but asked for a sentence of two years, six months.

His client, Kuh said, had a troubled childhood that included sexual abuse. She tried to join the Air Force as a young woman but didn’t make it through basic training after injuring her back, he said.

A longer prison term would punish not only Bjorneby but her five kids, some of whom are special needs, the federal defender added.

Bjorneby then addressed the court.

She apologized for her actions, saying she never meant to hurt anyone.

“It was selfish,” Bjorneby said. “I was thinking about my children. Unfortunately, I wasn’t thinking about anybody else.”

She said she hoped to get her life turned around in prison and be a better person.

“Hopefully, some day people can find forgiveness for me,” Bjorneby said. “I hope I can prove myself one day.”

Judge Bryan decided four years, and repayment of the $85,000, was appropriate punishment.

“You got off the track," Bryan said. "It will take you a long time to get back on track."

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