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‘Spare a square’ ringleader loses challenge to lengthy sentence

‘Spare a square’ ringleader loses challenge to lengthy sentence

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A federal appeals court has affirmed a 21.5-year sentence for the Baltimore ringleader behind a five-year scheme to distract and steal credit cards from women in public restroom stalls.

Ida Mae Weathers, then 49, pleaded guilty to bank fraud, conspiracy and aggravated identity theft last September. However, she claimed the sentence — a full five years longer than the upper end of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines — was excessive. She also contested the amount involved ($200,000 to $400,000) and her status as the ringleader of the group. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected her challenges on Aug. 18.

According to prosecutors, Weathers, a/k/a Ida Mae Snipe, would look for an occupied stall and lift the credit cards or wallet out of the woman’s handbag hanging on the hook inside. In order to work undetected, Weathers would have an accomplice occupy the adjacent stall and ask the victim for toilet paper or create some other distraction. The women would then use the credit cards until the cards were declined.

Affirming the lengthy sentence, the 4th Circuit noted that Weathers recruited and managed several accomplices, had a criminal history going back to age 18 and had been using the same “modus operandi” as far back as 1994.

It also rejected her argument that she should be entitled to a downward deduction for “accepting responsibility,” noting that she only pleaded guilty on the last day of jury selection in U.S. District Court and that the government, at that point, had expended considerable effort to bring the case to trial.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamera L. Fine represented the government. Paul R. Kramer and Granger Maher represented Weathers on appeal.

The unpublished, unsigned opinion in U.S. v. Weathers, No. 13-4775, is available on the 4th Circuit’s website.

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