GULFPORT -- A Texas man is facing up to three years in prison for failing to report to authorities his knowledge of a conspiracy to steal checks from mailboxes in Harrison County and elsewhere and using other people's identities to produce counterfeit checks to buy items at Wal-Mart stores.
Joe Gonzales Jr., 36, of Fort Worth pleaded guilty Tuesday to a bill of information charging him with misprision of felony -- knowing of a crime but failing to report it to authorities. In exchange for his plea, the government plans to dismiss a conspiracy charge against him at his April 14 sentencing. He remains in custody.
A federal grand jury had indicted Gonzales along with Megan Murley, 27, of Marlin, Texas, and David Elliot Burney, 47, and Charles "Cody Blue" Slaton, 47, both of Grandbury, Texas, on a charge of conspiracy to commit mail theft and identity theft. All but Gonzales had already entered guilty pleas.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Golden, Gonzales knew the crime was being committed because he stayed in a hotel room with Murley in Texas in January 2014, where she had an assortment of stolen mail and a large laser printer she was using to produce the counterfeit checks. In addition, Golden said, surveillance video showed Gonzales with Murley at a Texas Wal-Mart store, where she was using the counterfeit checks to make purchases.
Still, Golden said, Murley indicated Gonzales had very little involvement in the crime.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden will sentence Gonzales.
In addition to the prison term, he is facing a fine of up to $250,000 and up to one year under post-release supervision.
Court papers say the four Texans committed the crimes between Oct. 4, 2013, and Nov. 18, 2014.
The indictment says the four used the victims' names and bank routing numbers to produce the counterfeit checks. The checks were used to buy electronics, gift cards, prepaid credit cards, food and clothing. In addition, Golden said, Murley used the proceeds from the crime to cover motel expenses, such as those associated with her stay at the hotel with Gonzales.
Ozerden in November ordered Murley to help pay $10,513.50 in restitution and gave her credit for time served after her June 2014 arrest and sentenced her to three years of post-release supervision. Slaton and Burney are awaiting sentencing.