Shoplifting ringleader had no prior offenses, was mom to girl, 11
FARGO -- Michelle Christine Kartes is a single mother who started her own successful cleaning business in Fargo, Clean Your Way. But she also was one of two ringleaders in a shoplifting network that cost retailers in three states up to $400,000 i...
FARGO -- Michelle Christine Kartes is a single mother who started her own successful cleaning business in Fargo, Clean Your Way.
But she also was one of two ringleaders in a shoplifting network that cost retailers in three states up to $400,000 in losses.
That role in directing what federal prosecutors have called one of the most sophisticated theft rings in the region drew Kartes, of rural Moorhead, a two-year prison sentence.
Kartes also must pay $50,000 in restitution - money she had to borrow from her family, and will have to work to repay.
Prosecutors sought a slightly stiffer sentence, 27 months, a term that included credit for her cooperation. The defense asked for probation or a maximum of one year and one day in prison.
In handing down the sentence Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson said there was no way to excuse Kartes' central role in a major criminal enterprise that operated for up to three years.
"What you have here is a person who's a professional fence, period, end of statement," Erickson said. "We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars."
But, he added, she had no prior criminal history and has been a diligent mother to her 11-year-old daughter, and he considers her unlikely to commit another crime.
Kartes agreed to testify against her boyfriend and co-conspirator, David Gabriel Soldier, also known as David Whirlwind Soldier, who later pleaded guilty and faces sentencing Dec. 14.
Together, the pair headed a ring of thieves who stole "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds" of items, prosecutor Keith Reisenauer said. "If it were not for them, this operation would not have existed or taken place."
The theft operation branched out from the Fargo-Moorhead area into Minnesota and South Dakota after store security staff became increasingly suspicious of thieves, several of whom were charged in state courts.
Kartes and Soldier sold the stolen merchandise online on eBay, the popular Internet auction site. The list of stolen goods was extensive and included movie discs, clothing and personal hygiene products, iPods, power tools, computer games and vacuum cleaners.
Lorelle Moeckel, Kartes' lawyer, asked for a lighter sentence, preferably probation, to allow Kartes to stay home with her daughter and continue working.
"I know I made a huge mistake and I have to pay for that," Kartes told the judge before her sentence was imposed.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.