Credit card fraud nets three years in prison

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Kevin Murphy/Special to the Gazette
Thursday, August 6, 2009
— A transient who committed credit card fraud while staying in an Afton motel was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to three years in prison.

The man also was ordered to repay merchants $19,365 after he used 32 illegally acquired credit card numbers on 270 occasions to obtain thousands of dollars of merchandise.

Thomas J. Bluhm, 23, obtained "batches" of credit card numbers via the Internet from a person he identified only as "Batpower." At Batpower's direction, Bluhm bought specific merchandise and shipped it to countries in the Middle East, including Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Egypt, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim O'Shea said.

O'Shea wouldn't specify what merchandise Bluhm had shipped to the Middle East but said the FedEx charges totaled $3,900.

Between July and August 2008, Bluhm used the credit cards to order clothing, binoculars, electronic devices, tickets to Texas Ranger baseball games and hotel accommodations, according to court documents. Bluhm also used the cards to buy merchandise apparently for himself, including a foosball table.

After Bluhm ordered Kwik Trip gas cards valued at $1,000 for delivery to a motel room in Janesville, the retailer alerted Janesville police, who questioned and arrested him in August 2008. Despite the arrest and warnings from authorities to cease, Bluhm continued his unauthorized use of credit cards for months, O'Shea said.

Bluhm's attorney, Kelly Welsh, said the only illegally charged goods that her client kept were food, clothing and shelter. He shipped the rest overseas, Welsh said.

"He didn't use the credit cards to go jet-setting across the country and to buy expensive jewelry," said Welsh, who recommended an 18-month sentence.

Bluhm said he turned to drugs and alcohol after an abusive childhood and after sleepwalking caused him to be honorably discharged from the Navy. Needing money, he turned to the Internet and found credit card fraud schemes to exploit.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb told Bluhm, "What a danger you present to society as you absolutely have no stopping point" when it comes to credit card fraud. Concluding he was a high risk to reoffend, Crabb said she had no choice but to lock up Bluhm for as long as she could.

Crabb even refused to reduce Bluhm's sentence despite his guilty plea because he attempted to commit an unspecified and uncharged fraudulent act while in Dane County Jail.

Last updated: 11:12 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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