FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 1, 2012
TEN CHARGED IN MAIL AND WIRE FRAUD SCHEME
American Electric Power Issued More Than $590,000 in Fraudulent Power Surge Claims as a Result of the Conspiracy
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Ten individuals were charged in connection with a scheme to illegally obtain money through fraudulent power surge claims that were submitted to American Electric Power Service Corporation, Inc. (“AEP”). Karen Hodges, 39, of St. Albans; Jonathan Schaffer, 32, of Charleston; Tiffany Schaffer, 24, of Poca; Bryan Javins, 23, of Nitro; and Jeanette Boggs, 58, of Nitro, were charged by indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as well as individual acts of mail fraud. It is alleged that these defendants had filed fraudulent claims against AEP. It was a part of the alleged conspiracy that AEP claims checks in the amount of $2,000 up to approximately $9,000 per claim were individually mailed to co-defendants Jonathan Shaffer, Tiffany Shaffer, Bryan Javins, and Jeanette Boggs at various times between March 2009 and March 2010. After receiving the AEP claim check, defendants cashed the checks and shared the monies received with Deborah Farmer and other persons.
Informations that were simultaneously filed also allege that former AEP property damage claims adjuster Deborah Farmer, 48, of Winfield, arranged the scheme and conspired with individuals to unlawfully obtain money from AEP by submitting fraudulent claims for damages. Informations were also filed against Julia Washington, Mark Ingram, Crystal Ingram and Freda Bradshaw relating to the same scheme to defraud AEP.
According to the information filed, it was part of the alleged conspiracy that Deborah Farmer electronically filed fraudulent claims from either the AEP branch office in located in St. Albans, W.Va., or remotely by computer from her residence in Winfield, W.Va. These claims related to power surge damage where the claimants were not entitled to receive any money. The claims checks were mailed to various recipients to addresses designated by Farmer or the people who received the claims checks. The recipients would then split the money with Farmer.
As a result of the alleged conspiracy, AEP paid fraudulent claims totaling approximately $598,485 to the defendants who were not entitled to receive the benefit of such claims.
The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service and West Virginia State Police are handling the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Erik Goes is in charge of the prosecution.
Please Note: The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.