UPDATE 1/5/11 @ 7 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A mom and dad who used their kids in a major shoplifting scheme will be going to jail, but not at the same time.
Ross and Lisa Knotts of Charleston were sentenced in federal court on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston sentenced each parent to three months in prison, but he ordered them to serve the sentence at different times so that their kids never go without a parent. The two will also serve three years of supervised probation, three months of which they will be on home confinement.
The couple used their three young children in a major shoplifting scheme that spanned several states. They admitted to stealing about $80,000 worth of merchandise from various target stores. The couple would then sell the items on e-Bay. United States Attorney Booth Goodwin says the couple sold and shipped the stolen items more than 900 times over a period of eight months.
They used their three children to help them get the items out of the Target stores. In court, it was revealed that two of their children have special needs. Ross and Lisa would hide things in the children's strollers and hide in the store bathroom as the kids wheeled out the stolen goods.
Judge Johnston said Target wasn't the only victim in the case, he says the kids were the other victims.
"What's unusual is that you have a mother and father engaging their children in such a significant and long-term criminal enterprise," Goodwin says. "As the court pointed out, he staggered the sentences so that the children would not be further victimized. He didn't do it for the Knotts', he did it for the children."
In court, Ross Knotts apologized and said there was really no reason for what they did. They were very emotional throughout the proceedings. Their attorney says they are working to make their lives better and are working to get jobs.
The judge urged them to earn an honest living. He said stealing from Target was their job for the time they were doing it.
Ross and Lisa Knotts of Charleston pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud because they shipped the items they stole using the U.S. Postal Service more than 900 times.
The couple stole more than $80,000 from Target stores across West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Then they would sell the items on Lisa's e-Bay account.
The couple admitted in court to using their kids to help them steal the items. The children, ages 2, 6 and 9, would help take items off the shelves, the parents would put the items in the strollers and would make the kids push out the shopping cart full of stolen items while the parents hid in the stores bathroom.
Booth Goodwin, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, says these types of crime hurt everyone involved including taxpayers.
"Thefts from businesses cost our economy tens of millions of dollars each year," Goodwin says. "We are committed to prosecuting these cases to the fullest extent of the law."
As part of their plea, Ross and Lisa have agreed to pay back $80,000 to Target.
They both face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. They will be sentenced in January 2011.
Ross and Lisa Knotts are facing federal charges for the scheme which spanned nine month, four states and involved $80,000 worth of merchandise.
According to an information filed in federal court the couple used their children -- ages 2, 6 and 9 -- to shoplift.
But Ross Knotts says they never involved the kids. He told WSAZ.com that his attorney did not want him to comment but he did want to make one statement.
"The kids never stole," Knotts says. "Like all parents, the kids are always with us, but they never stole anything."
But the U.S. District Attorney's office says the kids were often at the center of the shoplifting scheme.
According to court documents, Lisa and Ross frequently used their kids to shoplift and would hide items in strollers, make the children take things off the store shelves and place them in shopping carts and
push the carts full of stolen goods out of the stores while the parents waited in the store bathrooms.
The couple would then allegedly sell the items on Lisa's e-Bay account. Under her seller's name, which is no longer active, she has a 100 percent approval rating from users.
According to the information, the couple stole things like diabetes test strips, computer printers and video games at Target stores in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
They're accused of bringing the stolen items back to their home in Charleston where they would allegedly sell them on e-Bay.
The couple is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud because the stolen goods were mailed to the winning e-Bay bidders. More than 900 different packages were sold and shipped.
Ross and Lisa Knotts are charged with mail fraud in the scheme, which prosecutors say involved the theft and resale of about $80,000 worth of items including diabetes test strips, computer printers and video games over a nine-month period starting in the spring of 2009, according to U.S. District Court documents.
The couple used their three children to shoplift from Target stores from West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, then used Lisa Knotts' eBay account to sell the merchandise, according to federal court documents.
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