Woman Who Operated "debt Relief" Companies Arraigned on Conspiracy, Fraud, and Money Laundering Charges
Las Vegas, Nev. – A former Las Vegas resident who operated two companies in Las Vegas during 2009 and 2010 which claimed they could help persons obtain loans and reduce their credit card, student loan, vehicle and mortgage debts, has pleaded not guilty to numerous felony fraud and money laundering charges, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Marilyn Stewart, 39, of Philadelphia, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl W. Hoffman on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, and pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 15 counts of mail fraud, 12 counts of wire fraud, six counts of money laundering, and one count of making a false statement to the FBI. Judge Hoffman released Stewart on a personal recognizance bond with supervision and conditions pending trial, currently scheduled for Oct. 15, 2012. Stewart was indicted in Las Vegas on July 25, 2012, and arrested on Aug. 1, 2012, in Philadelphia. She was released on a $25,000 personal recognizance bond by a federal magistrate in Philadelphia, and the indictment remained under seal pending Stewart's initial appearance yesterday before Magistrate Judge Hoffman.
According to the court records, Stewart and a co-conspirator, Henry Lee Stuckey, 41, of Las Vegas, owned and operated Pureasset Investment Corporation in 2009 and Reviving American Dreams in 2010. Stewart and Stuckey allegedly told customers that the companies could assist them pay down their credit card, vehicle and mortgage debts, make loans, and reduce the principal balance on their mortgages. In exchange for this service, the customers were required to pay an advance fee for each debt program they participated in, and were told that they would receive a refund if the debt reduction was successful. Stewart and Stuckey also paid commissions to customers to refer other individuals to the programs.
Stewart and Stuckey allegedly made numerous false statements to the victims about whether their debts were being paid, in order to continue the fraud and to ensure that new and existing customers submitted fees and induced them to recruit additional customers. Stewart and Stuckey allegedly used the fees they received from the customers for personal expenses, such as rent, food, travel, entertainment, attorney fees, to pay staff, and to generate more money by paying commissions to customers.
Stewart and Stuckey received over $200,000 in advance fees from approximately 66 victims who lived in various states, including Nevada, and who were primarily recruited by Stuckey, sales staff and customers who were promised commissions to enroll additional customers.
Stuckey is charged under a separate case number with mail and wire fraud and assault, and is scheduled for trial on Sept. 11, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Phillip Pro.
If convicted, Stewart faces up to 20 years in prison on each conspiracy count and fraud count and up to five years in prison on the false statement count, as well as fines of up to $10.25 million.
The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christina M. Brown and Sarah Griswold.
Today's announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys' offices and state and local partners, it's the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to fair trials at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.