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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Maryland Man Pleads Guilty To “Black Money” Conspiracy And Admits Engaging In A Series Of Similar Schemes In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, And Connecticut

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BOSTON – A Maryland man was convicted yesterday in United States District Court in Springfield on a number of charges related to the altering of U.S. currency in connection with a “black money” scheme.

Cole Williams, 32, of Frederick, Md., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor to conspiracy, wire fraud, and possession of altered U.S. currency with intent to defraud.

During the plea hearing, Williams agreed to repay $329,000 to the victims of five separate “black money” schemes that he perpetrated in 2011. Williams admitted that he perpetrated similar “black money” schemes in Billerica, Leominster, Groton, Conn., and Woonsocket, RI.

In the charged scheme, Williams and another co-conspirator defrauded two businessmen who operated Village Pizza in Indian Orchard, Mass. Williams and his partner first offered to purchase Village Pizza with $150,000 of what they called “black money,” which they represented to be genuine U.S. currency that had been altered to appear completely black, and they said, could be converted back into genuine currency through a chemical process. They claimed the currency had been colored black as part of a plan to smuggle it back to the U.S. from Africa.

In July 2011 at Village Pizza, Williams and the co-conspirator presented the two businessmen with genuine United States currency that they had previously coated black, and then used chemicals and powder to remove the black coating, thereby convincing the two businessmen into believing that they really possessed hundreds of thousands of dollars in “black money.” Williams and the co-conspirator then induced the businessmen to provide them with $50,000 in cash, which they said they would use to convert more “black money” into genuine U.S. currency that they promised to give to the businessman in exchange for the pizza restaurant. Williams and the co-conspirator then pretended to use the businessmen’s $50,000 to convert their “black money,” which was simply black paper cut to the size and shape of U.S currency, and then they took the $50,000 and left the businessmen with a large amount of black paper.

Williams faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud count and possession of altered U.S. currency count and a maximum of five years in prison on the conspiracy count. Each count carries a maximum of three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The co-conspirator was indicted for a similar scheme in RI, but fled prior to trial, and is a fugitive from justice.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Steven Ricciardi, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Boston Field Office, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of Ortiz's Springfield Branch Office.

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Updated December 15, 2014