After his mother went to prison for murder and his father got involved with drugs, Michael Aaron Longshaw turned to his aunt for guidance.
Unfortunately she was involved in forging checks and is accused of leading a forgery ring that was brazen enough to use the signatures of prosecutors and even the former chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on forged checks.
An attorney for Michael Aaron Longshaw said her client's aunt, Justine Coppolino, drew him into the ring and back into crime. Longshaw, who has a lengthy criminal history dating back to when he was young, said he started drinking and using drugs when he was 13. He said his father and his father's friends operated a meth lab in the backyard of his home and with his mother in prison for murder, there was little structure to his life.
Last August, Longshaw, his aunt and six others were indicted for using the names of others, namely government officials, and cashing bogus checks at local grocery stores.
Investigators found that the signatures of at least two Salt Lake County deputy attorneys as well as former board of pardons Chairman Mike Sibbett were scanned from documents and transferred to fake checks.
None of the people to whom the signatures belong were victims of the fraud. The grocery stores lost the money for cashing the checks.
"I knew what I was doing," Longshaw told U.S. District Judge Dee Benson during his sentencing hearing Thursday. Longshaw, 25, said he was willing to serve his time for what he did, but added he hoped to learn from his experience and do better with his life.
Benson pointed out his criminal history and said he felt Longshaw was on his way to becoming a "career criminal" if he didn't set his life right.
Longshaw was sentenced to a mandatory two years for aggravated identity theft, plus an additional nine months. Benson also ordered drug and mental health treatment for Longshaw. Longshaw is required to pay back $949 in restitution.
Coppolino also has pleaded guilty to aggravated identity fraud charges. She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 25.Last month Darlene Morris, another member of the group, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for her participation in the ring. She Darlene Morris told the court that her addiction to methamphetamine drove her to commit the crimes.