YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A Stow man was sentenced to three years in federal prison Thursday for his role in a fraud scheme involving several local Walmart stores.
John Lee Watkins, 33, received the sentence in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio from U.S. Judge Beinta Y. Pearson after he pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Watkins was the last of three people in the case to be sentenced. Valerie Marie Masongsong, of Henderson, Nevada and Terrell Tomlin, of Ogden, Utah were also charged.
In addition to paying $325,413.68 in restitution, a $1,500 special assessment will also be paid.
According to court documents, the group is accused of using Walmart2Walmart, a money transfer service, to defraud banks.
The Walmart money transfer service allows customers to initiate a money transfer at one store to be picked up by someone else at another store anywhere in the United States.
Investigators say the trio used a bank card from each other or a fictitious person to initiate a transfer and then report the transfer as fraudulent to the cardholder’s bank to seek a refund.
Then, the transferred money would be collected at the Walmart location before the bank had a chance to investigate the “fraudulent” transfer.
Local stores that were targeted include Austintown, Liberty and Poland.
Michael Reiner contributed to this report.