PITTSBURGH WOMAN IN BRIDAL CONVENTION SCAM PLEADS GUILTY
BOSTON, Mass. - A Pittsburgh woman was convicted today in federal court of aggravated identity theft and scheming to defraud commercial advertisers and exhibitors out of fees for fake bridal conventions and magazines advertised in Boston and other cities across the United States.
KAREN M. TUCKER, 47, most recently of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
At today’s hearing, TUCKER agreed with facts alleged in an earlier affidavit and the information filed against her, which state that she was responsible for defrauding various businesses in connection with a bridal convention fraudulently advertised as being held at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center in early March 2010. According to these documents, starting in September 2009, TUCKER pretended to be a company called “The Boston 411” and led the agency that books events at the Hynes Convention Center to believe that The Boston 411 would rent the center for a bridal convention open to the public. During months of correspondence, the agency asked The Boston 411 to complete the reservation by sending money, contracts, and other information. The Boston 411 never completed these arrangements, but instead strung along the booking agency so that it would nevertheless tell exhibitors and potential exhibitors that the convention was still scheduled. At the same time, TUCKER fraudulently advertised the convention as having thousands of paid attendees, which it did not, and on that basis fraudulently collected exhibitors’ fees, which were spent largely on personal expenses.
According the documents, the Boston scam was part of TUCKER’s larger scheme to defraud in connection with bridal conventions or magazines with a regional focus in cities including Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Las Vegas, Nevada; Miami, Florida; and Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas. According to the information, TUCKER also attempted to use the name and credit card number of a victim in the Miami phase of the scheme to pay for a website that advertised the Boston convention, and registered The Boston 411's PayPal account in the name of another person whose identity she had obtained unlawfully at a movie theater in York, Pennsylvania.
In another document filed with the court, TUCKER stated that although the government had earlier alleged that she worked with an unnamed and unindicted co-conspirator, both she and the other person have maintained that TUCKER was solely responsible for the fraud and the other person was ignorant that TUCKER was engaged in a scheme to defraud.
At the hearing today, the parties told the court that TUCKER agreed to recommend a sentence of 36 to 57 months of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, and forfeiture. The prosecutor told the court that the government would ask for similar terms, but likely a sentence of imprisonment in the range of 57 months and a fine if TUCKER is able to pay it. Her actual sentence will be determined at the sentencing hearing, which Judge Stearns scheduled for January 12, 2011.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Boston Field Division, and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott L. Garland of Ortiz’s Computer Crime Unit.