OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MATT J. WHITWORTH
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
JULY 10, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
KANSAS WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO WIRE FRAUD CONSPIRACY
TWO WOMEN STAGED ASSAULT IN ATTEMPT TO INFLUENCE
SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Bucyrus, Kan., woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to her role in a wire fraud conspiracy related to a scheme between two women who hired a man to physically and sexually assault them. The women were hoping to force a higher settlement of their sexual harassment lawsuit against a former employer.
Julie R. Bernet, 39, of Bucyrus, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith this morning to the charge contained in a Feb. 4, 2009, federal indictment.
Bernet admitted that she and Lindsey D. Crawford, 23, of Kansas City, were involved in a scheme to pay a man $100,000 to physically assault both of them and to sexually assault Crawford. The assault occurred on Nov. 25, 2008, in the garage at Crawford’s residence. Afterward, they made false reports to law enforcement authorities concerning the staged assault, falsely claiming to have been assaulted by two unknown masked men. As a result, law enforcement authorities spent a substantial amount of time and money investigating the nonexistent crime.
Crawford pleaded guilty on July 2, 2009, to her role in the conspiracy.
The purpose of the conspiracy was to fraudulently increase damages in the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Bernet and Crawford against their former employer, Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City, as well as Soave Automotive Group, Inc., T.E.N. Investments, Inc., and Soave Enterprises, LLC. By fraudulently staging an assault and linking the staged assault to those companies, Bernet and Crawford hoped that the settlement value or potential damages awarded by a jury in the sexual harassment lawsuit would substantially increase. They planned to compensate the man they had hired by paying him part of the money fraudulently obtained from the companies.
Bernet met with the man they had hired to attack them at Toby Keith’s Bar in Harrah’s Casino on Dec. 12, 2008, to discuss a plan to connect the staged assault to the victim companies. They agreed on a plan to have someone call Bernet from Aristocrat Motors (where Mercedes-Benz of Kansas city is located); she would then call the police to make a false report that her life had been threatened. The purpose of the false report would be to redirect the criminal investigation and to link the assault to the parties of the sexual harassment lawsuit.
A Lee’s Summit, Mo., man was hired to make the phone call from Aristocrat Motors on Dec. 13, 2008. However, instead of using the dealership’s phone, he used his own cell phone to make the call to Bernet. Bernet then called a Kansas City police officer and falsely claimed that her life had been threatened in a telephone call from an unknown male. The FBI traced the telephone number to the man’s cell phone.
Under federal statutes, Bernet and Crawford are each subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Acting U.S. Attorney Matt J. Whitworth and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mahoney. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at