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Press Release

Hercules, California Resident Indicted For Her Role in Business Email Compromise Scheme Victimizing Eastern District of Louisiana Company

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS –  U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that SONOVAH JUDITH HILLMAN, age 29, a resident of Hercules, California, was charged today by a federal grand jury seated in the Eastern District of Louisiana in a two-count Indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343 and 1349, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h).

According to the indictment, HILLMAN acted as a “money mule” in a scheme to victimize Company A, a floating crane and stevedore company headquartered in Convent, Louisiana, within the Eastern District of Louisiana.  HILLMAN’s co-conspirator(s) engaged in a “business email compromise” scheme  to obtain access without authorization to the email accounts of one or more employees of Company A for the purpose of obtaining private data, including usernames, passwords, bank account information, and the content of email accounts.  After gaining access to an email account of a Company A employee, the individual(s) arranged to have emails in the account forwarded to a separate email account under their control.   Thereafter, HILLMAN’s co-conspirators registered a domain name similar to Company A’s domain (for example, “Company A” instead of “Company A”) and, pretending to be representatives of Company A, sent emails to Company A’s customers, including Company B.  The false emails stated that there had been an audit of Company A’s bank accounts and that Company A’s customers should remit funds owed to Victim A to a new bank account.  On about May 10, 2017, HILLMAN’s co-conspirators contacted one of Company A’s customers (Company B) via email and, pretending to be employees of Company A, instructed that Company B should remit funds owed to Company A, approximately $92,007.85, to a Bank of America account that belonged to HILLMAN. According to the Indictment, after Company B sent the funds to HILLMAN’s account, HILLMAN engaged in a series of transactions over the next five days either to transfer the money to others or spend the money on personal items, including a $4,000 Disney cruise and multiple airline flights. 

If convicted, HILLMAN faces a maximum term of forty (40) years in prison, a fine of up to $750,000.00, up to three (3) years of supervised release after imprisonment, and a mandatory $100 special assessment per count.

U. S. Attorney Strasser reiterated that an Indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. Attorney Strasser praised the work of the United States Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service.  Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg, supervisor of the Public Corruption Unit, is in charge of the prosecution.

Updated August 30, 2019

Financial Fraud