After Theresa L. Bryson was arrested in March for forging checks, she gave police information about a national forgery scam.

Doing so might have kept her out of jail Friday, when Rock County Judge Michael Haakenson sentenced Bryson, 37, to six months probation for two charges of forgery.

The Oklahoma native had been part of the national felony lane gang, a crime ring that steals checks and identity cards from women before forging signatures and cashing the checks. She was arrested after visiting two Janesville Chase Bank branches in March and cashing a stolen check for $1,600 at one of them.

Prosecutors recommended the sentence because Bryson cooperated with law enforcement.

“She gave information about the person that was her handler in this operation to the best of her ability and (authorities) believe that was helpful,” said Deputy District Attorney Perry Folts.

Defense attorney Ashley Morse told the judge the sentence would be fair considering Bryson’s minimal prior criminal history. She said her client was a “pawn” for the national felony lane gang.

“Unfortunately, she was in a position where she was struggling in her life. I think struggling financially, struggling with mental illness, struggling with housing stability, and I think all of those things combined kind of put her in a position where she was the type of individual that was targeted, frankly, to be used by this group.”

Haakenson said it was a “close call” between jail time and probation.

He said the victim impact statements showed a “significant emotional and financial impact” and said the victims were asking for incarceration. Bryson giving local authorities information on how the group works and who is involved influenced his decision for no jail time, Haakenson said.

“She decided to help fix the mistakes and crimes that she made. I think that’s important that she at least tried to assist law enforcement, and for that reason I’m not going to order any confinement,” Haakenson said.

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