On December 1 (Thursday), a man from Billings, Montana, was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for trying to steal over $100,000 by means of using fake checks and forged casino tickets.
Matthew Lee Dustin, age 34, was accused alongside his wife Meranda Sue Malson, age 35, of working with Patrick Patterson, a suspect who still remains at large, to forge vouchers which is equivalent to over $6,000 in various casinos in the Billings, Bridger and Laurel areas as part of their scheme that goes way back to 2014.
Local and state investigators gathered incidents of crimes involving Dustin, Meranda, and Patrick Patterson. Back in 2014 and 2015, Dustin was involved in cashing out over $6,900 in fake casino tickets, and he also attempted to cash out over $100,000 in fake checks. The investigation covered extensive interviews with bank and casino operators in the region.
On January 2015, investigators found fake checks and lots of counterfeit casino cash-out tickets in a garbage bag from a hotel room where Dustin and his accomplices were staying. Four days later, police served a search warrant on their hotel room and they found a computer, document scanners, printers and blank casino tickets. Later it was determined that Malson stole the blank tickets in 2014. Also, they found check stock paper, check printing software, and counterfeit checks bearing Dustin's name. Investigators continued to investigate the forged checks, which resulted to a number of business accounts. In total, they verified 77 fake checks were presented for cash.
On March 17, 2015, Dustin was arrested at around 4:30pm on near a motor home in the West End Wal-Mart after running away from police and throwing a (stolen) handgun into the bed of a pickup truck. During their search, police found what they believed to be illicit drugs in his possession. Malson was also arrested at the motor home without any resistance.
After searching their motor home, police were able to find more check-manufacturing evidence, including copies of cashed checks and counterfeit checks. Prosecutors labeled Dustin as the "mastermind" behind the fraud check scheme.
The hearing was held in Yellowstone County District Court presided by Judge Mary Jane Knisely.
Malson is scheduled for sentencing on December 5. A plea agreement called for a suspended sentence.
Patterson was sentenced in August for conducting an illicit gambling enterprise, identity theft and forgery.
The full sentence for Dustin is 30 years behind bars with 20 suspended for four counts of forgery, defrauding a gambling enterprise, theft by deception, two counts of drug possession, and issuing a bad check - all deemed as felonies. He was also sentenced for two counts of misdemeanor forgery and misdemeanor resisting arrest. All the counts span three court cases. His sentence ran concurrently with a 2015 sentence out of Carbon County for theft and burglary. It is also concurrent to a federal sentence for a felon in possession of a firearm.