Serving the citizens of Clear Creek, Eagle, Summit and Lake Counties

Woman Pleads Guilty and Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Racketeering in Bank Fraud Spree Across Western Colorado

EAGLE, COLORADO: Cynthia Johnson (53), who stole the identities of Deborah Brendel and Jacquelyn Murray, and was arrested under Muray’s name, was sentenced Thursday, August 25th, by District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman to serve 18 years in the Department of Corrections after being convicted of taking part in a series of bank thefts using a credit card fraud scam. Johnson, along with accomplices stole over $37,000 from Alpine Bank in fifteen separate heists across western Colorado in September and October of 2015. Seven of those heists successfully yielded cash for Johnson and her accomplices.
Johnson’s scam ended when she was arrested last year on October 14th in Frisco, after a failed attempt to take a cash advance of nearly $5,000 from Alpine Bank using a fake credit card under a false name. The scam worked as follows: Johnson would present a fraudulent credit card and photo I.D., and ask the teller for a cash withdrawal. When the transaction was declined, Johnson, in combination with an accomplice on the phone posing as a credit card customer service representative, would con the teller by giving a false authorization code to “force” the transaction, thus completing the cash withdrawal.

Lead prosecutor Heidi McCollum, Assistant District Attorney, stated, “This is the precise scam Johnson used in California in late 2010 and early 2011 when she stole approximately 15 vehicles from dealerships by having an accomplice on the telephone give authorization for the dealerships to ‘force’ the sales.”

Johnson served a California prison sentence for the vehicle thefts and was out on parole in that case last fall, at the time she committed the Colorado thefts. Johnson’s crimes involving fraud, deceit, theft and multiple aliases, date back to 1980.

“Any single fraudulent credit card scam may see like a drop in the bucket, but it’s estimated that well over a quarter of a million dollars can be traced back to Cynthia Johnson’s crimes in the last decade alone. One individual with this intricate lifetime crime spree demands a punitive sentence.” – ADA, McCollum.

The District Attorney’s Office would like to thank the following businesses and agencies for their continued cooperation in investigating fraud scams all directly involving Cynthia Johnson in their respective communities. These investigations ultimately helped lead to this conviction under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act for Johnson’s racketeering activities.

Colorado: Alpine Bank; Breckenridge Police Department (PD), Frisco PD, Silverthorne PD, Avon PD, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, and the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Rifle and Glenwood Springs;
California: U.S. Bank; Santa Clara County Probation Department, Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, LA County Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln PD, Sunnyvale PD, San Leandro PD, Seaside PD, Los Gatos/Monte Sereno PD, and the Placer County District Attorney’s Office; and,
Illinois: Troy PD.