Pair who left 250 victims in crime spree sent to prison
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a woman who engaged in a crime spree and then staged a daring escape from police custody to nearly three years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby told Shauntae L. Stratton, 24, that she had racked up an astonishing criminal history in her short life and hopes the 34 months she'll spend in a federal prison will prove a turning point.
Federal prosecutors agreed to drop four counts against Stratton in exchange for her guilty plea to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. She faced a potential sentence of up to 30 years on the first count; the second carries a mandatory two-year term.
Stratton admitted that she and co-defendant Joseph L. Chatwin, 41, stole a purse on May 3, 2012, and then used that victim's driver license and a check stolen from other victims to open a bank account.
At the same time, the two were negotiating with another victim to buy a $30,000 motor home.
Stratton obtained a cashier's check for $30 made out to the seller of the motor home and then altered so it appeared to be in the amount of $30,000, which they then gave to the seller.
The two were arrested on July 17, 2012, by Farmington police and taken in separate vehicles to the police station. As officers took Stratton to a holding cell, Chatwin kicked out a window of a squad car, squeezed head-first through the opening and escaped in a stolen SUV.
As officers went after Chatwin, Stratton used a credit card to unlock the door of the holding cell and briefly took off before being recaptured.
Chatwin, who also has a lengthy criminal history, was spotted at a home in Sandy about two weeks later and drove off in stolen sedan as officers pursued him. He led police on a lengthy high-speed chase that ended when police spiked his tires and managed to stop the vehicle.
Chatwin approached a vehicle that was stopped at a red light; he drew a handgun as officers approached but was successfully subdued by a Taser and K-9.
Chatwin, who pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of bank fraud and one count of carrying a firearm during a violent crime, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He had faced up to 30 years on the bank fraud charge.
In all, some 250 people were affected by the pair's criminal acts, which included multiple burglaries, according to prosecutors. Many wrote to the court, describing how they now fear for their own and family members' well-being and must contend with fallout from having their personal and financial information ripped off, Shelby said.
Stratton offered an apology in court, though she did not publicly acknowledge the motor home owner, who was present.
"I feel absolutely horrible about the things I've done," Stratton said. "I just want to apologize to each one of my victims and let them know I am truly sorry."
Both also face state charges but have not yet been sentenced. Shelby declined to rule on how the state sentences should run but said he would recommend they be served concurrently with the federal terms.