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April 24, 2009

FORMER LOAN BROKER PLEADS GUILTY

(HOUSTON) - Melkeisha Smith, of Houston, has pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud before United States District Judge David Hittner, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced. Smith, 33, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging her with conspiring to submit altered and fraudulent invoices totaling $166,580 to El Paso Corporation.

In a hearing today, Smith admitted that her role in the conspiracy was to alter real invoices from an El Paso vendor called SRM International (SRM) that had been provided by a co-conspirator who worked for El Paso Corporation. The co-conspirator who worked at El Paso then processed the altered invoices for payment, which resulted in the interstate wire transfer of $166,580 in three separate wires to a Houston bank account set up to receive the money from the scheme. Smith admitted she and three other co-conspirators, including the El Paso employee, then shared in some of the proceeds of the crime. One of Smith’s co-conspirators, Dana Pickens, pleaded guilty to an information charging her with conspiracy for her role in this fraud and is pending sentencing. The two remaining co-conspirators have pleaded not guilty and are pending trial.

The charges against Smith resulted from an investigation conducted by the United States Secret Service that ultimately culminated in charges against all four co-conspirators involved in the scheme. In addition to presidential protection, the Secret Service’s investigative responsibilities include crimes involving financial institution fraud, computer and telecommunications fraud, false identification documents, access device fraud, advance fee fraud, electronic funds transfers and money laundering as it relates to the agency’s core violations. 

Smith is scheduled to be sentenced June 15, 2009. She faces a sentence of up to five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Belinda Beek.

 

 

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