Theft case

Two men, including a former employee of a Magnolia bank, have been sentenced for stealing financial information and making more than $42,000 in fraudulent online purchases.

Patrick Wayne Watson, 24, now of Conway, and Kennan Dane O’Bier, 24, now of Nash, TX, were sentenced Tuesday in United States Federal Court at El Dorado in the mail fraud and identity theft scheme.

O'Bier was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. Watson was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.

They were each ordered to pay $200 in special assessments and to pay restitution in the amount of $42,113.12.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan O. Hickey presided over the sentencing hearing.

According to court records and the federal grand jury indictment, Watson, who was employed at a Magnolia bank, used his position at the bank to review personally-identifiable information and banking information of customers. While doing so, Watson took photographs of information of more than 100 bank customers on his cellular phone.

The information included names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and account information.

The indictment and sentencing records do not name the bank.

Watson and O'Bier together used at least six of those customer's information to open PayPal, Amazon, and Wayfair accounts in the names of the unsuspecting bank customers.

Over the six months of the scheme, Watson and O'Bier used those accounts to order thousands of dollars in products from Amazon and Wayfair and had them delivered to multiple addresses, to include their home on Columbia Road 15 near Magnolia.

Watson used his mother’s home in TEXarkana as the shipment point for to send a front-loader washer and electric dryer – both of which made their way to the Watson-O’Bier home in Magnolia.

The merchandise obtained by the pair was widely varied but almost exclusively domestic in nature, according to the grand jury indictment.

Among the items fraudulently ordered in the name of one victim were a Chicopee 1 Drawer Nightstand, a hand-tufted silver area rug, three table laps, and inflatable reindeer decorations.

They set up an account in the name of another victim and ordered a pet gate, cordless vacuum cleaner, bamboo pole sculpture, coffee table and aquarium bowl.

O’Bier and Watson ordered six sets of Easy Grab 19-piece bakeware sets without the authorization of one victim. Also part of the illegal buying spree was an order for seven V7 Motorhead Bagless Stick Vacuums, five Deer Head Skeleton Wall Décor items, a dining set, coffee table, “Battle Dress Uniform” Santa Claus, a Lemon Panel Headboard, four HEPA air purifiers and filter sets, and two 70-inch TV stands.

Eight counts of the federal indictment deal specifically with illegal use of personal financial information of victims, constituting conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

On April 23, 2019, a federal search warrant was obtained by the FBI and executed on their Magnolia home. Many of the shipped items were found as well as additional evidence of the mail fraud and identity theft scheme.

A search of Watson's cell phone resulted in law enforcement discovering the photographs of additional bank customers' information which were not used in the scheme.

Watson and O'Bier were indicted on the scheme in August 2019. Watson entered a plea to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft charges on June 22, 2020.

O'Bier entered his plea to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft on July 20, 2020.

Both men were ordered to forfeit numerous electronic devices, including a credit card reader, Apple watches, iPhones and tablets.

They were ordered to report to federal prison on April 7.

The court recommended that O’Bier participate in substance abuse and mental health treatment and counseling. Watson was recommended for mental health, vocational and educational programs.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Hot Spring County Sheriff's Office, the Hempstead County Sheriff's Office and the Miller County Sheriff's Office.

Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Wulff prosecuted the case for the United States.

Click an emoticon to express your reaction to this article.