Fairbanks-area residents on edge about mail thefts

Two North Pole men were sentenced in federal court Friday morning for defrauding numerous victims in a sophisticated identity and mail theft conspiracy.

According to a news release issued by the office of the U.S. Attorney in Anchorage, Andrew Mac Saunders, 43, and Ian David Bowman, 30, stole mail from mailboxes in Fairbanks and North Pole and used specialized printers and computer software to create fake driver's licenses and counterfeit checks for themselves and their 12 co-conspirators.

The IDs were used to open lines of credit at stores to purchase expensive merchandise that Bowman, Saunders and their co-conspirators sold for cash to buy drugs.

Alaska State Troopers raided the men's North Pole home in 2018 and seized three computers, three external hard drives, a flip camera, a scanner, printers, check printer paper and blank check paper. The seized computers contained at least 51 counterfeit IDs. Ten had Saunders’ photograph on them, 21 had Bowman’s and 20 had photos of their various co-conspirators, according to federal court documents.

All of the IDs contained the names and addresses of actual people. Troopers also found 19 Alaska State ID cards, a real United States passport, W-2 and W4 documents, and tax forms.

The co-conspirators have not been named, and it is unclear if they have been charged in the case.

Bowman and Saunders pleaded guilty March 15 to two counts of identity theft. Saunders was sentenced Friday morning to 40 months in federal prison and Bowman to 52 months. Both men will serve three years probation and must pay $29,000 in restitution to the victims. They must also pay additional yearly payments to compensate the victims for the cost of identity theft protection.

Bowman and Saunders caused substantial financial hardship to many of the victims, according to court records. At least eight of the victims experienced lower credit scores, were unable to obtain further credit and had to purchase identity theft protection and credit monitoring services. One victim, a financial adviser, was almost fired from her job after her formerly excellent credit rating fell below 600. Another victim was forced to close her checking account, thus canceling automatic payments for her basic utilities and leaving her unable to cash her Social Security and retirement checks.

Some of the stolen mail contained money and gift cards sent to a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old from their grandparents. The children's father was forced to purchase credit monitoring for life and is currently accountable for approximately $7,000 in cellphone charges, according to court records.

A final restitution hearing will be held Aug. 16.

Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.