Counterfeit postage leads to 2 1/2 -year term

April 21, 2007|By Matthew Dolan

A Western Maryland mother of two who offered businesses a cheap but illegal way to mail letters and packages was sentenced in federal court to serve 2 1/2 years in prison after admitting she counterfeited hundreds of thousands of dollars in metered postage.

U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis sentenced Julie Hoffman, 33, of Lonaconing to the prison term followed by two years of supervised release. Davis also ordered Hoffman to pay restitution of $251,011.91. Her attorney in federal court in Baltimore said yesterday she had written a $5,000 check to start to pay back the U.S. Postal Service for its losses.

The attorney, Douglas C McNabb, argued that Davis should go below the recommended sentencing guidelines and impose a lower prison term, plus home confinement. As reasons, he pointed to her two young children and past mental health problems.

According to the statement of facts presented to the court at her Jan. 12 guilty plea, Hoffman owned and operated Hoffman Candles and Hoffman Mailing Solutions in Lonaconing, mailing about 1,000 envelopes and packages daily for several individual customers and businesses. Hoffman advertised that she could mail any item from Hoffman Candles to anywhere in the country, regardless of the weight or size of the item, for 20 cents, court papers say.

In 2003, Hoffman began to counterfeit metered U.S. postage by printing a legitimate set of postage from Stamps.com and Endicia.com, and then making copies of this postage on her own adhesive backed labels, according to the statement of facts. Prosecutors said Hoffman provided her employees with this counterfeit postage to use in mailing packages and letters, but did not tell them that the postage was counterfeit.

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