Oakley woman gets 10-year sentence for fraud schemes

  • Defense attorney Richard Scott talks his client Denise Michelle Hankins, during a hearing at the Superior Court of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa, California on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Denise Hankins didn't steal much compared with other Sonoma County fraud cases. Losses have been estimated at less than $100,000.

But she claimed a large number of victims. Police identified more than 60 individuals, businesses and banks that were affected by her schemes, which involved using stolen identification to set up phony checking accounts.

The Oakley woman, whose criminal history spans two decades, was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in county jail under a plea bargain with prosecutors. She bowed her head slightly as Judge Robert LaForge handed down the punishment.

"It's clear that wherever you go, you leave a path of destruction," LaForge said.

The exact extent of her crime isn't easy to determine.

Hankins, 42, had a briefcase filled with stolen IDs, counterfeit checks, forged documents and stolen mail when she was arrested at a Rohnert Park hotel in September. Prosecutor Amy Ariyoshi told the judge it would take two weeks, working eight-hour days, to phone each victim.

"I've never had this many people affected by one person's conduct," Ariyoshi said at her sentencing.

A group of them, including employees from Graton's Lynmar Estate winery, where Hankins claimed to work, were in court Wednesday. They declined to talk after the hearing but appeared to get some solace from the outcome.

Hankins, who served time in federal prison for mail and identity theft, also declined to say anything before she was led away by deputies. She'll serve about five years in jail before she becomes eligible for release.

Sheriff's detectives began investigating Hankins in August when she posed as a Petaluma woman to open an account at Citibank in downtown Santa Rosa. Although the woman had ID and checks, the banker was suspicious and put a hold on the account.

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