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Last member of ID theft ring – which includes Sandy woman – sentenced

UPDATE: Kathleen Mae Olinger pled guilty to conspiracy

The last member of a Portland-area identity theft ring - which includes a Sandy woman - was sentenced last week.

Merle Duane Hicks, 47, of Portland, was sentenced last week in federal court to five months in jail, six months in a halfway house and three years of supervised release.

A joint investigation by the Clackamas County Special Investigations Unit and the Internal Revenue Service uncovered the actions of Hicks, which eventually led to the convictions of William Duane Kennedy of Portland, Karla Jo Strandberg of Warrenton and Sandy resident Kathleen Mae Olinger.

Olinger, 28, assistant manager of the downtown Sandy Subway until recently, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit identify theft last April.

She will serve five years probation and pay more than $6,200 in restitution for her role in producing fake IDs and distributing methamphetamine.

The four defendants were indicted in March 2006 on charges of conspiracy to commit identity theft. Olinger and Kennedy also were indicted on charges of possession of false identification documents and drug charges related to the distribution of methamphetamine.

Police confiscated computers, printers, a digital camera and other items used for identity theft purposes.

Hicks - currently in federal custody and sentenced to five months in jail, six months in a halfway house and three years of supervised release - admitted in his plea agreement that he created counterfeit payroll checks and helped create IDs to cash illegal checks. He also possessed a false Oregon driver's license with his picture but with the information of another individual.

He also must pay $6,270.29 in restitution to his victims.

In their plea agreements, Olinger and Kennedy admitted to conspiring with Hicks and Strandberg to commit identity theft.

Kennedy gave specifics, noting that the false document lab was in operation between March 2002 and August 2003. He also admitted using a Foster Road home to distribute methamphetamine in August 2003.

In addition to her five years of probation, Olinger will have to pay restitution to her victims in the amount of $6,270.29. Kennedy was sentenced to five years of probation, with six months of home confinement.

Strandberg said she allowed Hicks and others to use her computer to produce fake IDs, including Hicks' false Oregon driver's license. Strandberg also acknowledged possessing a quantity of methamphetamine in March 2002, while at a residence on South Marjorie Lane in Oregon City. She was sentenced to three years of probation.

'Victims of identity theft are usually the last to know they have been victimized,' said Kenneth Hines, the IRS special agent in charge for the Pacific Northwest. 'IRS-CI is pleased to work with our law enforcement counterparts to be an end to this scourge that turns victims' lives upside down.'

This case was investigated by the Clackamas County Special Investigations Unit and the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division and prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Johnathan Haub.