Con artist sentenced to prison in Snohomish County court

EVERETT — A convicted con artist, whom police dubbed the “Widow Scammer,” wasn’t able to cry her way out of going back to prison.

A shackled Shirley Sue Urich, 55, stood up in court Thursday and wept. She talked about her sick son and bedridden daughter and tried to persuade a judge she’d seen the error of her ways.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry told Urich he wasn’t convinced she was sorry for bilking numerous people out of their money by playing on their sympathies.

“To say you are a career criminal who steals from people is a vast understatement,” Castleberry said. “Whether you’re truly sorry for anything, I truly doubt it.”

Castleberry wondered aloud if he was witnessing Urich do what she’s been doing for decades — lying and scamming.

“Actions speak louder than words. Your words cannot be trusted,” Castleberry said.

The judge sentenced Urich to more than two years behind bars. Urich pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree theft last month stemming from cons she pulled in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

Investigators say there are additional victims who fell prey to the cunning grandmother’s sob stories. Urich also faces charges in Skagit County, and King County prosecutors are reviewing similar allegations against her.

Urich has agreed to pay back all of her victims, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mara Rozzano said.

It’s unclear how much Urich has stolen from people over the years. Typically she was able to con victims out of $1,000 to $1,500 with each sad story, Rozzano said.

Urich’s attorney Kearney Hammer said his client’s habit of stealing stemmed from her all-consuming gambling addiction.

“She’s now recognized the underlying cause of her attempting to make money the easy way,” Kearney said.

Urich plans to get a legitimate job once she’s released from prison, he said. She wants to focus on taking care of her children and grandchildren, the Stanwood attorney said.

Urich, who used numerous different names, had faced courts in six Missouri counties and in Skagit, Whatcom, King and Snohomish counties. She had at least 19 prior convictions for theft, stealing and fraud.

Lynnwood police detective Doug Teachworth sat in the back of the courtroom Thursday, getting his first in-person look at the gray-haired con artist.

His department has been hunting for Urich since 2006, when she conned a Lynnwood businessman out of $1,000 by weaving a sad story about how her husband had recently died and she was down on her luck.

She promised to turn over her husband’s classic car collection in return for the money. The victim later tracked down Urich’s “husband.” That man wasn’t married to Urich. He didn’t even know who she was. The victim never got his money back.

Urich surfaced again in May 2008 when she convinced a Snohomish County man to give her $1,500. Urich played the grieving widow. She said her “husband” used to drink coffee with the victim and thought highly of the man. In tears, Urich told the victim she needed cash to pay an electrician, that she would pay him back.

The victim didn’t see her again until detectives showed him her mug shot.

Teachworth said he had a hunch that Urich might be supporting a gambling habit. He distributed wanted fliers to Puget Sound-area casinos in 2006 and again in March 2008, when police believed Urich scammed someone in Stanwood.

An alert security guard spotted her on Oct. 9, 2008, at the Quil Ceda Creek Casino. The guard called Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies and Urich was arrested.

“Hopefully this will keep her out of the loop for a few months,” Teachworth said. “It’s nice that the judge didn’t buy her sob story.”

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com.

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