Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander sentenced Lucerte “Lisa” Abellard, age 35, of Dobbs Ferry, New York, today to 53 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud Lowe’s stores. Judge Hollander enhanced Abellard’s sentence upon finding that she was a leader in the scheme and ordered Abellard to pay restitution of $410,989.95.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office.
According to her plea agreement, Abellard called employees at Lowe’s stores around the United States, pretending to be from the “IT department” at Lowe’s headquarters, telling the Lowe’s employee that she received a report there were problems with a register at the Lowe’s store. She would then ask the employee to run a series of diagnostics on the register, often pretending to be able to see the tests remotely. The purported diagnostics ended with a “test” transaction that put a credit on a Lowe’s gift card – usually about $3,000 to $4,000. In reality, this “test” transaction put a credit onto a Lowe’s card possessed by Abellard or her co-conspirators. Abellard was usually successful in deceiving employees into believing she was calling from Lowe’s IT department because she was very familiar with Lowe’s internal procedures and systems – including the names of systems and databases routinely accessed by Lowe’s employees.
Abellard received a portion of value on the gift card she fraudulently credited from the co-conspirators to whom she sold the cards. After obtaining the fraudulent credit, Abellard would contact the co-conspirator that had paid her for the card, advise that person of the credit and that the card needed to be used quickly before Lowe’s detected the fraud. Phone records connect Abellard and her co-conspirators to the fraudulently obtained gift cards, and confirm that Abellard made most or all of the fraud calls to Lowe’s stores.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Secret Service for its work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin S. Herring, who prosecuted the case.