News and Press Releases

Defendant Receives Federal Prison Sentence For Western Union/Moneygram Fraud Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 22, 2003

Las Vegas, Nev. -  Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada, and Ellen B. Knowlton, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for Nevada, announce that ROBERT COMITO, age 49, a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced on Friday, September 19, 2003, by U.S. District Court Judge Lloyd D. George, to 115 months in prison and ordered to pay $158,198 in restitution for his role in a scheme to defraud MoneyGram, Western Union, Wal-Mart Stores and other independent MoneyGram and Western Union agents.

The defendant and two others, Angie Ferguson and Anthony Betances were named in a four-count Indictment returned by the federal Grand Jury on October 30, 2002. In January 2003, COMITO pleaded guilty to one count of Conspiracy, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and three counts of Wire Fraud, violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. Ferguson pleaded guilty on December 31, 2002, to Wire Fraud, and was sentenced on April 17, 2003, to five years probation, and Betances, pleaded guilty on August 12, 2003, to Wire Fraud, and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 30, 2003.

According to the court records, beginning in approximately December 2001 and continuing to about October 2002, COMITO, Ferguson, and Betances operated a scheme to defraud wire service companies and agents of money in which COMITO would pose as an employee of MoneyGram and Western Union. COMITO telephoned the companies and agents around the country including Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Texas. During these phone calls, COMITO requested assistance in updating their systems. COMITO claimed to need to perform "test transmissions," using test questions he had created. Using his expertise and knowledge of MoneyGram and Western Union systems and procedures, COMITO talked the associate through the test transmissions. The employees did not realize at the time that an actual transfer of funds was taking place. Using their own identities and the identities of others, COMITO, Ferguson, and Betances then used the answers to the test questions to pick-up the money sent during the "test transmissions." Fraudulent wire transfers were picked up at various Western Union and MoneyGram outlets in the Las Vegas area, including grocery stores and casinos. In most instances, the money transmissions were below $1,000 each. The total monies fraudulently wired were over $200,000.

The Court also found that after COMITO had pleaded guilty, but while he was in custody, he obstructed justice by threatening co-defendant Angie Ferguson and hiring someone to tow her car in order to harass her, and by attempting to further implicate her in the fraud. COMITO, who had been facing approximately five to seven years in prison, was placed in an eight- to 10-year range of imprisonment because of the obstructive conduct. The defendant will also have to serve three years of supervised release following his release from prison.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Justin J. Roberts.

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