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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Southern California Woman Sentenced To Almost Six Years In Prison For Role In Wire Fraud Scheme

Defendant defrauded victims of more than $6 million by lying about the existence of a sick heiress in need of medical care

SAN JOSE – Shirley Ernestine Molina was sentenced to 71 months in prison for wire fraud and for her role in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch; Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf; and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  The Honorable Lucy H. Koh, U.S. District Judge, handed down the sentence today following Molina’s plea of guilty to the charges on March 8, 2017.

According to her plea agreement, Molina, 71, of Hawthorne, Calif., conspired with others to defraud at least 50 investors of more than $5.6 million.  According to the plea agreement, since at least 2009 and continuing through November of 2015, Molina’s co-conspirators told potential investors that an heiress to a billion-dollar estate was very ill and was in need of medical attention.  The co-conspirators convinced their victims that the heiress’s money was tied up in a secret probate case and that, in return for money to help pay for the heiress’s medical costs, the victims would receive $1,000 for every $1 they invested in the heiress’s estate.  The victims were promised that they would see the returns on their investments after the money was released from probate.  In truth, there was no dying heiress with a large estate.  Instead, Molina and her codefendants used the victims’ money to support their own lifestyles.  On December 3, 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Molina and charged her with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; 22 counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; and one count of money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957.  Pursuant to her plea agreement, Molina pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.  

Also charged in the scheme were Laurence Miles, 76, of Great Britain; Munsif Shirazi, 50, of Bell Canyon, Calif.; Robert Stephens, 66, of Napa, Calif.; and Rayan Lakshmanan, 49, of Davis, Calif.  For Miles’s part in the scheme, Judge Koh sentenced him on July 26, 2017, to 108 months in prison.  Similarly, for their respective roles in the scheme, Judge Koh sentenced Stephens on August 23, 2017, to 42 months in prison and Lakshmanan on August 16, 2017, to 18 months in prison. 

In addition to Molina’s 71-month prison term, Judge Koh ordered her to serve a three-year period of supervised release and to pay a forfeiture money judgement of $5,628,765.  A restitution hearing is set for October 18, 2017.  Judge Koh ordered Molina to begin serving her sentence on November 29, 2017.  

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amber Rosen and Patrick Delahunty are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Nina Williams and Susan Kreider.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and IRS.
 

Updated October 5, 2017