- Associated Press - Friday, November 20, 2020

SEATTLE (AP) - A Federal Way woman who falsified documents in a fraud scheme designed to steal and sell aircraft was sentenced in federal court to four years, three months in prison, according to prosecutors.

Michelle Renee Hughes, 43, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and identity theft in April and was sentenced Thursday by Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez, who warned her that she faces more prison time if she doesn’t change her behavior.

“This defendant has pursued identity theft and fraud crimes for more than a decade,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran. “These are not victimless crimes-real people have to sort out the damage done to their credit and financial life. In this case victims’ sense of health and well-being and their ability to help others was derailed by this brazen fraud scheme.”

According to court documents, Hughes sent forged bills of sale and falsely changed aircraft registrations in a public Federal Aviation Administration database. She made it look like she had bought the aircraft and then tried to sell them. She would try to get payments from unsuspecting buyers, documents said.

The true owners of the aircraft incurred legal fees and stress trying to get the clear title to their planes restored.

Martinez ordered Hughes to complete three years of supervised release after serving her prison term and pay one of her victims more than $11,000 in compensation.

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