Gwen Gardner Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Missoula on May 28, 2009, before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, GWEN GARDNER, a 40-year-old resident of Kalispell, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Sentencing is set for October 1, 2009. She is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
Beginning in 2003, and continuing until August 28, 2007, GARDNER operated an exotic dancing business. GARDNER placed advertisements in various Seattle publications, answered calls from prospective customers at her home in Kalispell, and scheduled appointments for various dancers working for her.
Some of GARDNER'S customers requested that the dancer come to their residence. Others were interested in making an appointment at an "in-call" location. GARDNER maintained an apartment in Seattle that she utilized as her "in-call" location.
Sometimes the dancers would arrive at the appointments scheduled by GARDNER, collect the fee, and perform an exotic dance. They would later deposit a portion of the proceeds into GARDNER'S Wells Fargo bank account, which she maintained and controlled from Kalispell.
At other times, the dancer would arrive at the scheduled appointment and, at GARDNER'S direction, perform a "cash and dash." The dancer would collect the fee and then make up some excuse to leave the premises without performing the exotic dance. GARDNER would sometimes tell the dancers to perform a "cash and dash," particularly if she was receiving a high volume of calls and wanted the dancers to make as many appointments as possible and collect as many fees as possible. The "cash and dash" resulted in the theft of the customer's money, a portion of which was deposited into GARDNER'S Wells Fargo bank account. Wells Fargo utilized wire communications to reconcile the Seattle transfers with GARDNER'S Kalispell account.
GARDNER not only told the dancers when to perform a "cash and dash," she also told them how. On June 26, 2007, during a recorded conversation with an undercover Seattle police officer, GARDNER suggested several methods of executing a "cash and dash." GARDNER explained that the dancer could tell the customer that she needed to check in with her driver or that she forgot something in her car. GARDNER told the officer that dancers could leave an item of clothing or a purse behind, so the customer would think the dancer was coming back.
GARDNER not only scheduled "in-call" appointments at her Seattle apartment, she also scheduled "in-call" appointments at an area Ramada hotel, despite the fact that she did not maintain an "in-call" location at that hotel. GARDNER'S dancers knew that a Ramada "in-call" was nothing more than a "cash and dash" that easily could be executed by meeting the customer in his car in one parking lot, collecting the fee, telling the customer that the dancer would go inside and rent a room, and then simply walking around the hotel to a second parking lot and departing the premises.
During an interview with law enforcement, one of GARDNER'S dancers explained that GARDNER directed her to perform "cash and dash" at anywhere from 30% to 70% of her appointments. Regardless of the fee charged by the dancer, and regardless of whether the dancer performed an exotic dance or executed a "cash and dash," GARDNER received $100 from every appointment.
GARDNER faces possible penalties of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.