Florida Residents Charged With Conspiracy And Wire Fraud
Defendants Allegedly Duped Victims Into Funding Millions of Dollars’ Worth of Fake Invoices from Non-Existent Clients, Including Several Horse-Related Entities
OAKLAND, Calif. - A federal grand jury indicted Karl James Stehlin and Gregory Scott Winters charging them each with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. According to the indictment unsealed last Friday, January 13, 2017, the defendants allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud a victim in Walnut Creek, Calif., into paying in excess of $5,000,000 for fake invoices reflecting goods sold to non-existent customers, including several businesses purportedly in the equine industry.
According to the indictment, Stehlin, 57, of Seminole, Fla., and Winters, 45, a resident of Ocala Fla., at the relevant time, were part of a conspiracy that sold millions of dollars’ worth of fake invoices to a Walnut Creek company that provides accounts receivable collateralized lending services, also called “factoring.” Factoring is a financial transaction in which a business sells its accounts receivable (invoices) to a third party (the factor) at a discount. The factor advances a percentage of the face amount of the invoice to the business and then collects the full amount from the customers of the business in due course. Following collection from the customers, the factor deducts its commission and other fees and then pays the balance to the business.
Stehlin, Winters, and their co-conspirators allegedly created multiple shell entities, including Nature’s Own Pharmacy, a company they claimed sold equine supplements, as well as many other shell companies that were represented to be Nature’s Own Pharmacy’s customers but in fact did no legitimate business with Nature’s Own Pharmacy. According to the indictment, the defendants then created fake invoices that gave the appearance of the sale of goods from Nature’s Own Pharmacy to the fake customers of Nature’s Own Pharmacy. The defendants then allegedly sold the invoices to the Walnut Creek factoring company. The defendants allegedly used false names, virtual office addresses, and other false information to execute their scheme. The fake customers of Nature’s Own Pharmacy supposedly received goods shipped from Nature’s Own Pharmacy to locations in various states around the country including Florida, California, Arizona, and Texas. In reality, the indictment alleges, Nature’s Own Pharmacy sold neither goods nor services, and none of the purported customers bought any goods or services from Nature’s Own Pharmacy; the invoices sold were allegedly completely fake.
Stehlin is in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons on other charges and will be transported to the Northern District of California to make his initial appearance in this case. Winters is scheduled to make an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu on February 2, 2017.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of twenty (20) years in prison, a three-year term of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss (whichever is greater), plus restitution, and a $100 special assessment for each count. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Gullotta is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Michelle Alter Eck and Trina Khadoo. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI.