Colorado man pleads guilty to defrauding elderly victim
DENVER – Akihiko Siegfried, age 54, formerly of Denver, CO, pled guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer late Monday to one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering, federal law enforcement authorities announced. Siegfried, who is currently in custody, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Brimmer on March 10, 2014. Siegfried was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on June 17, 2013.
According to the facts contained in the indictment as well as the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, in January of 2008, Siegfried knocked on the door of the elderly victim’s residence and when the door opened Siegfried pretended to be distraught and was crying. Siegfried falsely told the victim that Siegfried’s parents had just died in a car crash and that he had no money and no family to turn to for help. Siegfried asked to borrow money. The victim was then an 89-year-old widower of Japanese descent with little family, asked Siegfried if he was Japanese which he replied that he was. He felt sorry for Siegfried and, in part because of their shared Japanese heritage, decided to help Siegfried.
Siegfried borrowed from the victim several times and in the middle of 2008 falsely told the victim he would inherit substantial money as a result of his parents’ death, but that it would be tied up in probate for some time and he needed money for paying the associated fees and taxes. In fact, Siegfried’s father died in the 1990s, his mother died in 2002, and there was never any inheritance held up in probate; however, from mid-2008 through March of 2013 Siegfried repeatedly falsely told the victim the inheritance was held up in probate.
From March of 2009 through March of 2013, Siegfried frequently spent time as an inmate in the Colorado Department of Corrections. When he was in jail during that time frame, he repeatedly called and sent letters through the mail asking for money, directing the victim to deposit and wire transfer money to Siegfried’s inmate account with the Colorado Department of Corrections. Siegfried told the victim he needed the money because he was required to pay for his diabetes medicine while he was in jail and because he needed to pay more probate fees and taxes for his purported inheritance. In fact, Siegfried has never been diagnosed with diabetes, has never taken medication for diabetes, and inmates of the Colorado Department of Corrections are not required to pay for medicine prescribed to them while they are in custody.
During the entire scheme, Siegfried told the victim he would repay all of the money Siegfried received his inheritance. Siegfried agrees that, from January 2008 through March 2013, as a result of the scheme, the victim provided at least $400,001 to him and that his sentence will include an order of restitution of at least $400,001 and up to $560,861.
In October of 2012, when Siegfried was released from prison, he received a check payable to himself in the amount of $49,655.30 from the State of Colorado, Department of Corrections. At least $10,000 of this money was proceeds of the fraud scheme involving the elderly victim.
“All too often, con men prey on our senior citizens and steal their life savings,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “Protecting the public – and particularly seniors – from fraud is one of the top priorities of this office. The defendant in this case will face the full weight of the law at sentencing.”
“Individuals who commit crimes against the vulnerable and elderly with this degree of trickery, fraud and deceit will to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Stephen Boyd, Special Agent in Charge for IRS Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office.
“The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue con-artists who prey upon the elderly and defraud innocent victims of their life’s savings,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Thomas Ravenelle.
Mail fraud carries a penalty of not more than 20 years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $250,000 per count. Money Laundering carries a penalty of not more than 10 years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $250,000 per count.
This case was investigated by agents with IRS Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Colorado Department of Correction. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Pegeen Rhyne. AUSA James Russell is handling the asset forfeiture.