Toledo trio convicted at trial of forging will to steal $2.2 million
Three Toledo residents were convicted for forging a will to fraudulently gain control of an estate worth approximately $2.2 million, said U.S. Attorney Carole S. Rendon and Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.
Susan M. Pioch, 60, Margaret L. McKnight, 42, and Kurt L. Mallory, 53 are convicted on all counts following a weeklong jury trial.
All three were convicted one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and mail fraud, 21 counts of bank fraud, seven counts of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Pioch, McKnight and Mallory were convicted on additional counts of money laundering. McKnight was convicted on an additional count of structuring cash withdrawals, three tax counts and seven counts of causing a financial institution to fail to file a required report.
“This trio forged a will and stole a lifetime of savings and hard work,” Rendon said. “They will finally be held accountable for their actions. It’s particularly egregious that an attorney, who has sworn an oath to uphold our laws, was involved in these crimes.”
“The defendants engaged in a scheme to steal millions from a deceased man’s family, proving that money is the root of all evil,” Enstrom said. “It was imperative to make sure no corners were cut and no stone was left unturned. The IRS National Forensic Laboratory played a critical role in this investigation by examining the handwriting on numerous documents that ultimately proved that the will in question in this case was forged. Today’s convictions are a direct result of the excellent partnership of the IRS, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Toledo Police Department.”
Martin E. Fewlas executed a will in 1993 devising his entire estate to his brother. If his brother did not survive Fewlas, the estate was to go to his nephew and then his great-nephew, identified in the indictment as JRM.
Fewlas owned the duplex located at 2557 Broadway Street in Toledo. He lived in the lower half and for approximately 10 years, McKnight and Mallory lived together in the upper half, according to court documents.
Fewlas died on Aug. 28, 2010, leaving an estate worth approximately $2.2 million. On Sept. 2, 2010, McKnight, Mallory and Pioch – an attorney who had previously done legal work for McKnight and Mallory forged a will in Fewlas’ name. The forged will was drafted by Pioch and named McKnight as the executor and sole devisee of Fewlas’ assets. Pioch filed the forged will with the Lucas County Probate Court on or around Sept. 2, 2010. McKnight identified herself as executor of the estate and Pioch identified herself as attorney for the executor in probate court documents, according to court documents.
By filing the forged will and concealing its fraudulent nature, Pioch, McKnight and Mallory succeeded in obtaining Probate Court authority to take possession of Fewlas’ assets. After obtaining those assets, they disbursed the assets to themselves for their own enrichment, according to court documents.
Pioch, McKnight and Mallory used those assets to purchase, among other things, a used car dealership, a 2000 Discovery motorhome for $55,036, a classic 1972 Chevrolet El Camino for $17,000, a 2010 Kia Soul SUV for $21,338, as well as property. They also withdrew more than $500,000 in cash for Fewlas’ estate proceeds, according to court documents.
JRM, Fewlas’ great nephew and the sole remaining devisee from the 1993 will, received nothing, according to court documents.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gene Crawford and Noah Hood following an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations and the Toledo Police Department.