A Bismarck woman allegedly used fraudulent letters from government organizations, some with a forged signature of a South Central District judge, to convince people into giving her thousands of dollars on the promise that she would pay them more in return.
Autumn Morrell, 32, is charged with three counts of theft and three counts of forgery, all Class A felonies, court documents show. That level of felony carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Morrell used fake letters from North Dakota courts with a forged signature of Judge Cynthia Feland to get more than $296,000 from one victim, police say. She allegedly convinced the victim she was going to collect a large sum of money from Medicaid and told the victim she needed money to pay some bills before she could collect.
Police say Morrell also told one couple she was going to receive monetary settlements but needed loans from them to make payments on her account before should could get it. She provided them with letters, which police say they later verified as fake, from the North Dakota Department of Human Services, Burleigh County Clerk of Courts and the North Dakota attorney general’s office. The letters say Morell would receive amounts ranging from $15,000 to more than $67,000. The couple gave Morrell checks, cash and electronic transfers totaling nearly $62,000.
Morrell also signed a $400,000 promissory note to a third victim for loans police say were made under fraudulent pretenses over a span of 1 ½ years.
Morrell made her initial court appearance on Friday. South Central District Judge John Grinsteiner set her bail at $100,000 cash. She is being held in the Burleigh Morton Detention Center. No attorney is listed for her in court documents.
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com
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