Lakewood man sentenced for bank fraud and identity theft

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Kaster used his son’s ID info to work while receiving disability benefits

Kevin Murphy, Times Herald Correspondent

GREEN BAY – A Lakewood man who drew Social Security disability benefits while also working and earning wages using his son’s name and Social Security number was sentenced Friday in federal court to two years in prison and one year supervised release.

James Robert Kaster, 65, was indicted in February for bank fraud and identity theft. He has been in custody since pleading guilty in August to bank fraud by using another person’s birth certificate in connection with defrauding a bank.

According to court documents:

In 2008, Kaster was approved to receive Social Security disability benefits retroactive to Feb. 1, 2007. In March 2008, Social Security Administration discovered that Kaster, while working at Diversified Wood Products in Suring, had earned $3,676 that had been assigned to the Social Security number of his son, identified as B.K., who was 15 years old at the time. The administration reassigned the earnings amount to Kaster’s earnings records.

The amount of disability benefits Kaster received, if any, was not available Monday.

In August 2015, another son of Kaster, identified by the initials G.K., told the Oconto County Sheriff’s office that his father had stolen his Social Security number and identity while working as an IT specialist. Two firms that employed Kaster in the previous years had payroll records that showed Kaster used G.K.’s name and Social Security number. Also, Kaster never informed the Social Security Administration that he had returned to work.

In October 2015, Kaster requested birth certificates from the state’s Vital Records office for a person identified only as GMK. Kaster told staff that he recently found out that GMK was his brother, and he wanted to surprise him. When staff members refused his request, Kaster returned with a “notarized” statement purportedly from a woman identified as S.K., GMK’s wife, giving Kaster permission to obtain GMK’s birth certificate. The statement was purportedly notarized by S.K., who is Kaster’s ex-wife.

Kaster moved to Sparta in November 2015 to start a new job. Within weeks, Kaster’s son received an identity theft alert that a Sparta credit union had inquired about his Social Security number. Kaster had opened a checking account at a credit union under a name identified as GMK. When the credit union later asked for an additional photo ID, Kaster submitted a copy of a birth certificate bearing GMK’s name and a state ID card he obtained from the Department of Motor Vehicles that fraudulently bore GMK’s name and Social Security number.

In investigating the validity of the birth certificate, authorities interviewed S.K., who said that she is no longer a notary and had not notarized the statement used in requesting GMK’s birth certificate. S.K. stated that she lost her notary stamp during the divorce from Kaster in 2005 or 2006 and wondered what happened to it.

Investigators interviewed the real GMK in Marshfield, who said he was not related to Kaster and had not given Kaster permission to use his personal information.

The DMV canceled Kaster’s recently acquired state ID card and learned that Kaster had unsuccessfully tried to obtain another driver’s license.

Authorities executed a search warrant at Kaster’s Lakewood residence on Chain Lake Road in December 2015 and recovered the GMK birth certificate Kaster used in his bank fraud scheme. Kaster told authorities that he used his son G.K.’s name and Social Security number while working at two employers and reported earnings he received to the IRS under G.K.’s name and Social Security number.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget Domaszek and Kaster’s attorney, Krista Halla-Valdes, both recommended that Kaster be sentenced to two years in prison, the mandatory minimum term.

Kaster had two prior convictions, including theft by false representation in Dane County in 1985 when he was sentenced to two years in prison. In 1998, he was convicted in federal court of bankruptcy fraud and sentenced to 18 months in prison.