MISSOULA — A Kalispell woman who admitted to funneling millions of dollars overseas in a money mule scheme that defrauded victims was sentenced today to 57 months in prison, ordered to pay $2,043,340 restitution and to serve three years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
Theresa Anne Chabot, 58, pleaded guilty in September 2022 to unlicensed money transmitting businesses.
U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided. The court also ordered Chabot to forfeit a 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe. Chabot was ordered into custody.
“As a money mule, Chabot laundered millions of dollars collected through various fraud schemes across the country and sent proceeds overseas while keeping a share of the money for her own benefit. Chabot exploited and harmed numerous trusting victims and now rightfully faces the consequences of her criminal conduct. As this case shows, our office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who criminally exploit others,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.
“IRS special agents are experts at unraveling sophisticated financial crimes and disrupting international crime organizations,” said Andy Tsui, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office. “Money mules like Chabot are the lifeblood of these fraudsters, enriching themselves and harming countless victims in the process. Today’s sentencing is a victory for all taxpayers and an example of the commitment we share with the FBI and other law enforcement partners to cut off the flow of money to criminals who think they are beyond our reach.”
“Money mules support criminal enterprises by adding a layer between those criminals and their victims, making it more difficult to trace and recover the funds,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Cheyvorea Gibson of the Salt Lake City FBI. “Acting as a money mule, whether you know it or not, is illegal. The FBI is committed to protecting the public from such predators and holding them accountable.”
The government alleged in court documents that from about May 2017 until February 2021, Chabot, through her business, Avalanche Creek, LLC, collected money from various wire fraud schemes around the United States into her bank accounts. Chabot then funneled millions of dollars overseas, including to the United Arab Emirates, and received 10 percent of the funds into her accounts. The fraud loss was $5,449,395. Chabot preyed on the elderly, fantasies of love, friendships, purported oil investments, advance-pay schemes and gold and silver. In 2018, the Secret Service informed Chabot she was acting as a “money mule,” but Chabot ignored the warning and continued sending money overseas. When interviewed again by agents in 2020, Chabot admitted one instance in which she received $10,000 hidden in a stuffed animal and deposited the money into her account.
Chabot operated Avalanche Creek as a money transmitting business and was required to register it with the Department of Treasury. Chabot opened more than 50 bank accounts. Banks closed numerous accounts after reviewing the activity because of fraud or misuse. Despite the repeated bank account closures, Chabot would open new bank accounts that enabled her to receive proceeds.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation.
Clair Johnson Howard
Public Affairs Officer