KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tom Larson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that today that a an agent for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and a detective with the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department have received the 2017 Guardian of Justice Award.
U.S. Postal Inspector Matthew Murrow and Kansas City, Mo., Police Detective Sarah Throckmorton were honored on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, during the 15th Annual LECC Training Seminar in Springfield, Mo. Murrow was honored for his investigation into an $8 million fraud scheme led by a St. Robert, Mo., woman who conspired with sources in Nigeria to defraud more than 1,000 victims. Throckmorton was honored for her investigation of one of the most egregious stalking and cyberstalking cases ever prosecuted by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.
U.S. Postal Inspector Matthew Murrow
Postal Inspector Matthew Murrow led a four-year investigation into an international fraud scheme in which more than 1,000 victims and approximately $8 million in actual and attempted losses were identified. Murrow’s investigation resulted in the successful prosecution of five defendants and a 12-year prison sentence for the leader, Lisa Barwick-Majeski of St. Robert, Mo.
Barwick-Majeski was the ringleader of a group involved in the distribution of counterfeit US Postal Service (USPS) money orders and counterfeit cashier’s checks. Barwick-Majeski organized the activities of the group, including her mother, neighbors, and friends as they mailed the counterfeit money orders and checks to victims and received wire transfers from the victims, whom Barwick-Majeski had contacted online regarding Craig’s List purchases or Secret Shopper jobs. Many of the victims were disabled or low income and were attempting to work from home when they fell victim to Barwick-Majeski.
Barwick-Majeski communicated with individuals in Nigeria and received victim contact information from people outside of the United States. She also received counterfeit USPS money orders from overseas. Barwick-Majeski wired the money they received from victims to multiple individuals in Nigeria.
In presenting the Guardian of Justice Award to Murrow, Larson noted the extensive searches, surveillance and travel required for the investigation. Murrow coordinated with multiple federal agencies in an effort to identify and prosecute the suspects in Nigeria, but was unable to pursue those charges.
Murrow’s investigation, however, didn’t end with Barwick-Majeski’s conviction. When Barwick-Majeski arrived at the federal courthouse in Springfield, Mo., for her sentencing hearing on August 19, 2016, Murrow observed that she appeared to be faking an injury. She was dramatically struggling with a walking aid, which Murrow had never seen her use before. Barwick-Majeski’s sentencing was continued to Nov. 10, 2016. On that date, Barwick-Majeski again arrived at the courthouse using the walker and struggling dramatically to enter the courthouse. While entering the courthouse, she attempted to fall near one of the court security officers. She then went into the women’s restroom, where she was later found lying on the floor and requesting an ambulance. She was transported by ambulance to the hospital and her sentencing was cancelled.
Murrow, believing this was a ploy by Barwick-Majeski to avoid being sentenced, conducted surveillance at the hospital and observed Barwick-Majeski leaving the hospital with a friend. Murrow observed the friend pull up to the hospital entrance driving Barwick-Majeski’s vehicle. Barwick-Majeski stood up from a wheel chair unassisted and walked to the vehicle. After Barwick-Majeski got into the passenger seat of the vehicle, her friend drove to another part of the hospital parking lot and Barwick-Majeski, without any assistance or limited movement, exited the passenger seat, walked around the vehicle to the driver’s seat, and drove away. Murrow captured this activity on camera, and later recovered the hospital surveillance video as well as the courthouse surveillance video. This information was presented to the court at her Dec. 2, 2016, sentencing hearing to show that Barwick-Majeski had continued her fraud activities, and she was immediately taken into federal custody to begin serving her prison sentence.
KCPD Detective Sarah Throckmorton
Detective Sarah Throckmorton of the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department investigated one of the most egregious stalking and cyberstalking cases ever prosecuted by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. As a result of her investigation, defendant Shelia Wallis was convicted at a bench trial and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
In January 2012, a victim had a six-month relationship with Wallis. After he stopped dating her, Wallis began stalking him, cyberstalking him, and harassing everyone around him, including children. The stalking began with threatening notes, and harassing anonymous text messages. When the frequency and harassment worsened, the victim obtained an order of protection. The victim received a doctored sonogram purporting to show that Wallis was pregnant. Friends of the victim, the victim’s mother, and his new girlfriend all started receiving e-mails or packages. Wallis sent a message to the new girlfriend’s minor daughter. The victim had screws in his tires. Over the next few months, the messages got more personal, and showed Wallis had been watching him. The victim lost several new girlfriends who left him due to the harassment. For example, a former girlfriend had strange men coming to her house because they saw an ad on Craigslist that had been posted by Wallis.
Nine months after the breakup, the victim was still getting harassing messages. Wallis was seen following the victim several times. The victim even caught Wallis going through his trash in the middle of the night. The victim broke his arm when he chased her and fell as she sped away in her car. This harassment continued for months and through the holidays. Several fake e-mail accounts were used by Wallis. Wallis was observed lurking around and following him; she was seen at his daughter’s soccer game. Child custody papers were taped to his neighbor’s fence. New girlfriends had “SLUT” written on glass doors at their home or gates broken, and pizzas repeatedly delivered to their houses. The victim’s new and ex-girlfriends obtained orders of protection.
Wallis was observed following the victim’s minor son walking from the bus stop. The victim’s friends started to get the same treatment — vulgarity written on their homes, messages to their employers, accusations of cheating, threats or messages to their children. Fliers were sent to the victim’s son’s elementary school, accusing the victim of being a sex offender.
In presenting the Guardian of Justice Award to Throckmorton, Larson noted that she not only persisted through many difficulties and led a very challenging investigation, but became a victim herself in the process. E-mails and other messages were sent to her workplace by Wallis. Throckmorton had to move and take other safety precautions.
Working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI’s Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory, Throckmorton was able to put her investigation together with the digital evidence obtained from social media services. This helped her identify Wallis’s location and the computers she was using so that a search warrant was obtained for Wallis’s residence. When law enforcement searched Wallis’s home, they found a goldmine of frightening evidence, which led to her being charged in Jackson County in January 2015. This new evidence included the home address of Throckmorton, who herself had now become a target for Wallis. Examiner Mark Johnson at the RCFL found a diary, which detailed step-by-step what Wallis had been doing for years. It was a log of the stalking and harassment, from putting chemicals in the irrigation system of the victim (to kill his lawn), to her repeated following him and his friends and family, to the numerous fake accounts she used to send her messages.
Cyberstalking and stalking cases are difficult to prosecute, Larson noted. This case had a profound impact on these victims, yet individual incidents were difficult to prove and by themselves misdemeanors. However, when Throckmorton was able to paint the complete picture, the true nature of this case became clear.
Guardian of Justice Award
The annual Guardian of Justice Award recognizes a state or local officer as well as a federal agent for investigative excellence, selfless collaboration, tireless trial support, commendable diligence and professionalism, and noteworthy assistance to prosecution. The prestigious law enforcement award is presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office each year during the law enforcement training conference.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Western District of Missouri