A North Coast woman was sentenced Friday, March 1, to 10 years in prison for racketeering and more than 20 identity-theft related charges.
Desirai Skye Schehl, 28, was charged with 145 counts of identity and mail theft, first-degree forgery and other crimes earlier this year. More than 130 Clatsop County people and businesses were listed as victims.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, Schehl pleaded guilty or no contest to 13 counts of identity theft, three counts of first-degree forgery, six counts of mail theft and one felony count of racketeering.
“Not only was her exposure just greater than I’ve ever seen on any kind of case like this, but also Ms. Schehl from the beginning was ready to come to terms,” said James Lee von Boeckmann, an attorney who represented Schehl.
Schehl could have been sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison, due to the number of charges. The district attorney’s office and the defense agreed on a 10-year sentence to give Schehl an opportunity to do drug treatment and have a chance at being a part of her 5-year-old son’s life again.
Schehl’s behavior is believed to be related to her drug addiction.
“Considering the number of individuals she has taken advantage of, I thought 10 years was an appropriate sentence,” said Deputy District Attorney Steven Chamberlin, who prosecuted the case. “Frankly, I’m hopeful that she takes advantage of getting some drug treatment so when she comes back she has the opportunity to be a part of her son’s life and be a positive role model for him. If she doesn’t, she’s going to fall right back into this.”
For almost a year, Schehl systematically gained access to other people’s accounts by stealing checkbooks or mail with personal information. She would forge checks, deposit them into other people’s bank accounts and then withdraw the money, she said during her sentencing.
In many cases, Schehl would give people she knew who were also addicts money or drugs to set up fake bank accounts, where she would deposit and withdraw money she stole from other accounts. Other times, she stole bank cards or checkbooks and made unauthorized purchases at local stores.
In one incident, police found Schehl with 117 pieces of mail after receiving reports of stolen mail from a mass mailbox along state Highway 202.
“You have victimized so many people in our community,” Circuit Court Judge Paula Brownhill said. “I wish the police could have caught you much earlier. I don’t know why it took so long.”
In addition to prison time, Brownhill is requiring Schehl to pay back all of the money stolen from the victims.
After pleading, Schehl apologized for causing harm and said she intends to pay everyone back to “make things right.”
“I wish I could change the fact I hurt a lot of people,” she said. “I feel like this process can either make me stronger or make me worse, and I’m going to use it to make me a better person.”