Sunday, Aug 19, 2018
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4th person arraigned in local fake ID, Bitcoin case

An additional Toledo resident charged in a prolific fake ID scheme involving online currency Bitcoin appeared in court Monday.

Benjamin Stalets, 28, of the 2200 block of Parkwood Avenue was arraigned in Toledo Municipal Court on a charge of conspiracy, a second-degree felony. A judge released him on his own recognizance. 

Prosecutors allege in court documents Mr. Stalets planned, or aided in planning, the act of money laundering. His preliminary hearing is set for March 19.

Police previously arrested Mark Simon, 34, of the 4700 block of Stengel Drive and Sarah Alberts, 34, of Perrysburg following a multiyear investigation into the production of false identification cards.

Investigators believe Mr. Simon was the operation's boss, and Ms. Alberts and Aaron Kuns are accused of working with him to produce “high quality” fake cards. Prosecutors previously said they believe Mr. Stalets was a co-conspirator and facilitated some equipment to process the identification cards.

Mr. Kuns, 33, of the 3700 block of Dewlawn Drive is also charged with conspiracy. He was released after posting $5,000, the required 10 percent of his $50,000 bond.

An affidavit filed in U.S. District Court states agents seized from Mr. Simon’s Stengel Drive home about $4.7 million in Bitcoin, contained in approximately 30 “wallets” stored on a USB thumb drive. In addition, they reportedly took 18 gold coins and more than 200 silver coins, as well as gold bars, cash, and more.

Bitcoin is a virtual currency not tied to any standard. It is challenging, but not impossible, for law enforcement to track. The fake IDs were sold over the popular website Reddit.com.

Mr. Simon is charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, identity fraud, manufacture, transfer, sale, or distribution of false identification cards, telecommunications fraud, forgery, and possession of criminal tools. He remained held in the Lucas County jail in lieu of $5 million bond.

Ms. Alberts was arraigned on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, money laundering, and manufacturing fake identification cards. Her bond is $1 million.

Mr. Stalets' attorney, Pete Rost of Toledo, declined comment on the case. Mr. Stalets did not return a message seeking an interview.

Contact Ryan Dunn at rdunn@theblade.com, 419-724-6095, or on Twitter @RDunnBlade.

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