Ohio Woman Pleads Guilty and Sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud
NEW ORLEANS – United States Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced today that on September 30, 2020 HEATHER TOLSON (“TOLSON”), age 27, of Lorain, OH, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371 and was sentenced by United States District Judge Sarah S. Vance.
As admitted by TOLSON in the Factual Basis, in the beginning of February 2017, co-defendant Jose Fernandez Morel (“Fernandez”) devised a scheme to defraud by fraudulently representing himself as an immigration attorney. Specifically, Fernandez and other coconspirators acting at his direction, created the fictitious law firm of “Micheal (sic) Browns Immigration Attorneys” with an address of 4207 Parliament Drive, Alexandria, LA 71303. Fernandez enlisted the assistance of co-defendants Esteban Ramirez, III (“Ramirez”) and TOLSON to receive funds from various individuals who were victims of Fernandez’s scheme. Ramirez and TOLSON agreed to wire via Western Union the fraudulently obtained funds they received to Fernandez in the Dominican Republic. Part of their agreement was that Fernandez would split these funds with Ramirez and TOLSON.
During the scheme, Fernandez fraudulently represented himself as an attorney named “Robert McCane” and Fernandez, Ramirez, and TOLSON represented themselves as employees with the “Micheal Browns Immigration Attorneys” law firm. Fernandez, Ramirez, and TOLSON represented to Individual A’s family members that “McCane” was an attorney associated with the “Micheal Browns Immigration Attorneys” law firm located in Alexandria, LA which also had offices in New York and Ohio. Fernandez, Ramirez, and TOLSON utilized various email accounts to communicate with Individual A’s family members in an effort to promote the scheme. For example, Fernandez, Ramirez, and TOLSON created a “Legal Services Agreement” that was emailed to Individual A’s family members which referenced a $4,980.00 fee and a $980.00 initial deposit for “attorney’s fees and cost incurred by clients.” Fernandez, Ramirez, and TOLSON obtained money from Individual A’s family members under the guise of collecting a retainer to provide legal services for Individual A and under the pretense of posting a bond to secure the release of Individual A from immigration custody.
TOLSON opened a bank account at a Chase Bank branch in Lorain, OH in order to receive fraudulently obtained payments from Individual A’s family members. Fernandez, Ramirez, and TOLSON utilized various Chase Bank locations in Lorain, OH and Western Union agent branches to conduct cash transactions to withdraw payments from Individual A’s family members. Further, Ramirez and TOLSON utilized Western Union locations to wire fraudulently obtained payments to Fernandez in the Dominican Republic. Fernandez, Ramirez, and TOLSON falsely represented themselves as employees of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance sentenced TOLSON to three years of probation with eight months home confinement, ordered her to pay restitution in the amount of $8,280.00, and pay a mandatory $100.00 special assessment fee.
U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser praised the work of Homeland Security Investigations. The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba, Supervisor of the Financial Crimes Unit.