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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 13, 2020

Hercules, California Resident Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud for Her Role in Business Email Compromise Scheme Victimizing Eastern District Of Louisiana Company

NEW ORLEANS –  U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that SONOVAH JUDITH HILLMAN, age 29, a resident of Hercules, California, pleaded guilty on February 13, 2020 to Count One of a two-count Indictment charging her with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343 and 1349, before United States District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo.

According to court documents, HILLMAN acted as a “money mule” in a scheme to victimize Victim A, a floating crane and stevedore Victim headquartered in Convent, Louisiana, within the Eastern District of Louisiana.  HILLMAN and her co-conspirator(s) engaged in a “business email compromise” (BEC) scheme.  They accomplished their scheme by obtaining access without authorization to the email accounts of one or more employees of Victim A for the purpose of obtaining private data, including usernames, passwords, bank account information, and the content of email accounts through a “phishing” scam.  After gaining access to an email account of a Victim 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 Victim A’s domain (for example, “Victin A” instead of “Victim A”) and, pretending to be representatives of Victim A, sent emails to Victim A’s customers, including Victim B.  The false emails stated that there had been an audit of Victim A’s bank accounts and that Victim 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 Victim A’s customers (Victim B) via email and, pretending to be employees of Victim A, instructed that Victim B should remit funds owed to Victim A, approximately $92,007.85, to a Bank of America account that belonged to HILLMAN.  After Victim B sent the funds to HILLMAN’s account, HILLMAN engaged in a series of transactions over the next five days to transfer the money to others, withdraw over $40,000 in cash, and spend ill-gotten money on personal items, including vacations and airline flights. 

HILLMAN faces a maximum term of twenty (20) years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000.00, up to three (3) years of supervised release after imprisonment, and a mandatory $100 special assessment.  Sentencing before Judge Milazzo has been scheduled for June 3, 2020.

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.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Updated February 13, 2020