A Columbia man has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison for his part in a fraud scheme that involved 14 banks across the state.
Federal prosecutors say Michael Spears, 37, of Columbia, was sentenced Thursday and ordered to pay $114,127 in restitution.
Prosecutors say Spears stole mail, opened bank accounts with fake identifications and passed fraudulent checks in Webster County, and elsewhere. He also created fake companies to conceal the fraudulent checks.
At least 12 co-conspirators committed similar crimes as part of the scheme. Some sold cattle and used financial information from the checks to make counterfeit checks.
Phillip Daren Shockey, 49, of Crawford, has pleaded guilty. Prosecutors say he was the leader of the conspiracy. He used motel rooms as work stations to create the fake checks and false identifications.