Woman Pleads Guilty to Cheating 1,700 Victims in $1.2 Million Loan Scam
NORFOLK, Va. – A Virginia Beach woman pleaded guilty today to an internet-based loan scam that cheated approximately 1,700 victims out of over $1.2 million.
According to court documents, Terri Beth Miller, 53, and her husband and co-defendant Ronald A. Smith, 59, set up a company called Business Development Group, an internet-based business that offered, in exchange for an advance fee, to assist individuals in preparing loan applications to obtain SBA-guaranteed loans. They solicited potential customers on the basis of false, fraudulent, and misleading statements and representations, including, among others, that the company was headquartered at the Trump Building in New York and had assisted well-known large companies in obtaining SBA loans. They offered a money-back guarantee, but in fact employed various fraudulent methods to deny refunds. Miller and Smith solicited approximately 1,700 customers, who paid an aggregate sum of approximately $1,287,000 in advance fees. The vast majority of these customers did not receive an SBA guaranteed loan. In fact, Miller and Smith did virtually nothing to even attempt to obtain loans for their customers.
Miller pleaded guilty to wire fraud and engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property. She faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison when sentenced on April 16, 2021. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Smith pleaded guilty to similar charges in October, and will be sentenced on April 2, 2021. He was convicted of nearly the identical loan scam in 2006 and received a sentence of seven years in prison.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Martin Culbreth, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney, Jr. accepted the plea.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan M. Salsbury is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:20-cr-69.