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A former Spectrum Brands customer service representative was indicted Wednesday after federal prosecutors said he took nearly $281,000 in company funds by submitting false warranty claims, some of them in the names of friends, family and participants in a beauty pageant organization that he founded.

Shonn Northam, 46, of Briggsville, was charged in a 24-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Madison, with mail and wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft for the scheme, which prosecutors said took place between February 2013 and November 2014.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Northam faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the six mail fraud, five wire fraud and five money-laundering counts. He also faces a mandatory minimum two years in prison on each of the eight identity theft charges, which would be served consecutively to any other sentence he receives.

The loss to Spectrum was about $280,644, prosecutors said.

According to the indictment:

Northam was a customer service representative in Middleton-based Spectrum’s small appliance division, where he was responsible for evaluating warranty claims for defective products.

In 2013, Northam started US Proud, an organization that hosted beauty pageants for the LGBT community all across the U.S., including in Madison. In order to land big-name entertainment for the events, he falsely told US Proud participants, vendors and audiences that Spectrum provided financial support as a sponsor of US Proud events.

As part of the warranty scheme, Northam filled in false information on Spectrum forms, purportedly on behalf of customers reporting defective items, which he forwarded to his supervisor for approval and for the issuance of checks to qualifying customers. In some cases, Northam changed the spelling of the customers’ names when seeking multiple payments to the same purported customer in order to bypass Spectrum’s internal controls for catching fraudulent claims.

When asked why he had checks sent to him, instead of directly to customers, Northam told his supervisor that he could get the checks out to customers faster.

Northam also used the identities and addresses of US Proud beauty pageant contestants, along with names of friends and family members, to generate false warranty claim checks, forging their signatures and then depositing the checks into his own bank accounts.


Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.