KANSAS CITY, Mo. A Raytown, Mo. man was convicted today in federal court in two separate and unrelated counts of a nearly $10 million conspiracy to distribute nearly 2,000 pounds of meth and a fraud scheme using identities stolen Johnson County, Kansas, government employees to make fraudulent credit card purchases.
Michael B. Becher, 41, was sentenced in two separate hearings before US District Judge Greg Kays to a total of 20 years in federal prison without parole. The court sentenced Belcher to 20 years in federal prison for a drug trafficking conspiracy and five years in federal prison for a fraud scheme, to be served concurrently.
The court also ordered Becher to pay a monetary judgment of $1,165,500, which represents the proceeds of the drug trafficking conspiracy. The confiscation is based on Becher’s distribution of 185 kilograms of methamphetamine at $6,300 per kilogram. The court also ordered Becher to pay $189,378 in restitution to victims of the credit card fraud conspiracy and for property Becher admitted to stealing in Nebraska.
Conspiracy to distribute methamphetamines
On April 13, 2022, Becher pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamines from September 1, 2018 to November 5, 2019. Becher was part of the drug trafficking organization led by Mirza Alihodzic, 37, of Kansas City, Mo.
Becher admitted he was responsible for distributing at least 185 kilograms of methamphetamine. Becher also admitted to buying multiple pounds of meth on a daily basis.
Becher was arrested on November 5, 2019, after meeting a conspirator who planned to travel on a private plane that same day to purchase 40 to 50 kilograms of meth in California. Becher paid his accomplice $1,000 to buy meth. Law enforcement officers were conducting surveillance of the residence when they heard sounds that sounded like gunfire and people screaming. Officers entered the residence and arrested Becher and others.
Becher admitted buying 11 kilograms of methamphetamine from his co-conspirator in the previous two weeks and purchasing two kilograms from a second source a week before his arrest. Becher paid Alihodzic $5,000 a kilogram for the methamphetamine and sold it for $6,300 a kilogram. Becher also admitted that in the past he had purchased four to five pounds of meth a day from a third source and once stole 23 to 27 pounds of meth from that source. On one occasion, Becher said, he had more than 80 pounds of illegal drugs in his car.
Officers searched Becher’s BMW 650i and found approximately one pound (205.01 grams) of pure meth inside a gray backpack between the vehicle’s front seats. Becher told investigators the methamphetamine came from a fourth source, co-defendant Jesus Banuelos, Jr., 24, of Kansas City, Mo. Becher bought a kilo of methamphetamine from Banuelos the night before his arrest. Officers also found two plastic bags that contained a total of 1,547.06 grams of “imitation” meth, used as a cutting agent.
Officers searched a storage unit Becher rented and found two M20 Super Bazooka rockets, an Anderson Manufacturing AM-15 5.56mm semi-automatic rifle with a magazine that held 21 rounds of ammunition, a ziplock bag which contained 0.1 gram of meth, and several rounds of ammunition. One rocket was determined to be active with active propellant and warhead and the other, a training rocket with active propellant and training warhead. Becher said he received the rockets from Alihodzic.
Becher is among 12 defendants who were convicted in this case. In addition, six co-defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing in two separate indictments resulting from this investigation. Alihodzic was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison without parole. Banuelos was sentenced to 18 years and nine months in federal prison without parole after pleading guilty to his role in the drug trafficking conspiracy and to unlawful possession of a firearm.
This case is being pursued by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bradley K. Kavanaugh and Sean T. Foley. He was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the FBI, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Mid-Missouri Drug Task Force.
Conspiracy to commit credit card fraud
On May 19, 2022, Becher pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit credit card fraud from February 1 to June 30, 2019.
Becher admitted that he and his conspirators used stolen identity information to make fraudulent purchases. Many of the identity theft victims were employees or former employees of Johnson County, Kan. The government of Johnson County, Kan., experienced an employee personal data breach in 2015.
Becher caused financial loss to the retail stores and vendors where the fraudulent transactions occurred, and caused significant trouble for the individuals whose identities he stole.
Becher was responsible for forging driver’s licenses on behalf of identity theft victims. Beakers and conspirators used the forged licenses to open fraudulent credit accounts. Before creating a counterfeit driver’s license, Becher performed a credit check on the identity theft victim to determine the likelihood of opening a credit account.
Becher made at least seven fraudulent purchases himself, using the stolen identities of three victims, at Lowe’s and the Home Depot in transactions ranging from $1,617 to $8,049. Becher then sold the assets and equipment for half the actual value of the property. Becher kept half of the proceeds he sold and gave the other half to the conspirators.
According to court documents, Becher’s criminal history is substantial and replete with multiple fraud convictions. He got his first felony conviction in 2005 when he was convicted of forgery in Cass County, Missouri, for stealing his mother from him. In that case, Becher forged and used a check for $500 from his mother’s account. Becher has 23 previous felony convictions.
This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley Cooper and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick D. Daly. He was investigated by the Olathe, Kan. Police Department and the US Secret Service.
Safe Neighborhoods Project
The US Attorney’s Office is working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to specifically identify criminals responsible for major violent crimes in the Western District of Missouri. A centerpiece of this effort is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for all. Project Safe Neighborhoods is an evidence-based program that identifies the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develops comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, Project Safe Neighborhoods focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with community-based prevention and reintegration programs for lasting crime reduction.