KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Raytown, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today in two separate and unrelated criminal cases for a nearly $10 million conspiracy to distribute almost 1,000 kilograms of methamphetamine and for a fraud scheme that utilized the stolen identities of Johnson County, Kansas, government employees to make fraudulent credit card purchases.
Michael B. Becher, 41, was sentenced in two separate hearings before U.S. District Judge Greg Kays to a total of 20 years in federal prison without parole. The court sentenced Belcher to 20 years in federal prison for the drug-trafficking conspiracy and five years in federal prison for the fraud scheme, to be served concurrently.
The court also ordered Becher to pay a money judgment of $1,165,500, which represents the proceeds of the drug-trafficking conspiracy. The forfeiture is based on Becher’s distribution of 185 kilograms of methamphetamine at $6,300 per kilogram. The court also ordered Becher to pay $189,378 in restitution to the victims of the credit card fraud conspiracy and for property Becher admitted stealing in Nebraska.
Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine
On April 13, 2022, Becher pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from Sept. 1, 2018, to Nov. 5, 2019. Becher was part of the drug-trafficking organization led by Mirza Alihodzic, 37, of Kansas City, Mo.
Becher admitted he was responsible for the distribution of at least 185 kilograms of methamphetamine. Becher also admitted that he purchased multiple pounds of methamphetamine on a daily basis.
Becher was arrested on Nov. 5, 2019, after he met a co-conspirator who was planning to travel on a private plane the same day to purchase 40 to 50 kilograms of methamphetamine in California. Becher paid his co-conspirator $1,000 to purchase methamphetamine. Law enforcement officers were conducting surveillance of the residence when they heard noises that sounded like firearms and people screaming. Officers entered the residence and arrested Becher and others.
Becher admitted that he had purchased 11 kilograms of methamphetamine from his co-conspirator in the prior two weeks and had purchased two kilograms from a second source a week before his arrest. Becher paid Alihodzic $5,000 per kilogram for the methamphetamine and sold it for $6,300 per kilogram. Becher also admitted that in the past he had purchased four to five pounds of methamphetamine daily from a third source and had once stolen 23 to 27 pounds of methamphetamine from that source. On one occasion, Becher said, he had more than 80 pounds of illegal drugs in his car.
Officers searched Becher’s BMW 650i and found approximately a half-pound (205.01 grams) of pure methamphetamine inside a grey backpack between the front seats of the vehicle. Becher told investigators the methamphetamine came from a fourth source, co-defendant Jesus Banuelos, Jr., 24, of Kansas City, Mo. Becher purchased one pound of methamphetamine from Banuelos the night before his arrest. Officers also found two plastic bags that contained a total of 1,547.06 grams of “imitation” methamphetamine, used as a cutting agent.
Officers searched a storage unit Becher rented and found two M20 Super Bazooka rockets, an Anderson Manufacturing AM-15 5.56mm semi-automatic rifle with a magazine that contained 21 rounds of ammunition, a zip-lock bag that contained .1 gram of methamphetamine, and various rounds of ammunition. One rocket was determined to be live with propellant and a live warhead and the other, a training rocket with propellant and training warhead. Becher said he received the rockets from Alihodzic.
Becher is among 12 defendants who have been sentenced in this case. Additionally, six co-defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing in two separate indictments that resulted from this investigation. Alihodzic was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison without parole. Banuelos was sentenced to 18 years and nine months in federal prison without parole after pleading guilty to his role in the drug-trafficking conspiracy and to illegally possessing a firearm.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bradley K. Kavanaugh and Sean T. Foley. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the FBI, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Mid-Missouri Drug Task Force.
Conspiracy to Commit Credit Card Fraud
On May 19, 2022, Becher pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit credit card fraud from Feb. 1 to June 30, 2019.
Becher admitted that he and his co-conspirators used stolen identity information to make fraudulent purchases. Many of the identity theft victims were current or former employees of Johnson County, Kan. The Johnson County, Kan., government experienced a data breach of employees’ personally identifiable information in 2015.
Becher caused a financial loss to retail stores and vendors where the fraudulent transactions occurred and caused significant problems to the individuals whose identity he stole.
Becher was responsible for making counterfeit driver’s licenses in the names of the identity theft victims. Becher and co-conspirators used the counterfeit licenses to open fraudulent credit accounts. Before making a counterfeit driver’s license, Becher performed a credit check on the identity theft victim to determine the likelihood of establishing a credit account.
Becher made at least seven fraudulent purchases himself, using the stolen identities of three victims, at Lowe’s and Home Depot in transactions ranging from $1,617 to $8,049. Becher then sold the goods and equipment for half of the actual value of the property. Becher kept half of the proceeds that he sold and gave the other half to co-conspirators.
According to court documents, Becher’s criminal history is substantial and filled with various fraud-related convictions. He obtained his first felony conviction in 2005 when he was convicted of forgery in Cass County, Mo., for stealing from his own mother. In that case, Becher forged and used a check for $500 belonging to his mother’s account. Becher has 23 prior felony convictions.
This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley Cooper and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick D. Daly. It was investigated by the Olathe, Kan., Police Department and the U.S. Secret Service.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with federal, state, and local law enforcement to specifically identify criminals responsible for significant violent crime in the Western District of Missouri. A centerpiece of this effort is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods is an evidence-based program that identifies the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develops comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, Project Safe Neighborhoods focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
Originally published at https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/kansascity/news/raytown-man-sentenced-to-20-years-for-10-million-meth-conspiracy-and-fraud-scheme-that-used-stolen-identities-of-johnson-county-employees
originally published at HUMAN RIGHTS - USA DAILY NEWS 24