Accountant from Silver City, New Mexico pleads guilty to federal wire fraud and identity theft charges
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Thomas Laws, 62, of Silver City, New Mexico pleaded guilty today in federal court in Las Cruces, New Mexico to four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in a scheme to steal more than $1.5 million from his victims.
According to his plea agreement, Laws worked as a licensed accountant and registered investment advisor in Silver City. He provided accounting, tax preparation and investment services to clients. From 2008 to 2019, Laws engaged in a scheme to obtain money by false pretenses and fraudulent misrepresentations made to clients, lenders, investors and others.
Among other things, Laws lied to two clients to convince them to invest in a real estate development project. Laws fabricated and forged mortgage documents purporting to show that $650,000 these clients invested in the project was secured by a mortgage. In reality, Laws had previously mortgaged the property to other lenders, defaulted, and a court had ordered foreclosure and judicial sale of the property. Rather than developing the real estate, Laws channeled the $650,000 to pay part of a settlement with an earlier victim of his scheme.
Laws also scammed two other investors out of $550,000 that Laws claimed would be used for a mining project. Instead, Laws used the money to pay off earlier victims of his scheme, including partial restitution to a corporation from which he, as the corporation’s chief executive officer, had embezzled more than one million dollars.
As part of his fraudulent scheme, Laws made, or caused others to make, several wire transfers of funds. Laws also used stolen money to pay personal expenses for himself and his family, including credit cards debts, travel, communication and media services, firearms and cash. His scheme caused total financial losses of more than $1.5 million to the victims.
Laws is currently out of custody awaiting sentencing. He faces up to 81 months in prison under the terms of his plea agreement, including a mandatory sentence of 24 months for aggravated identity theft.
The FBI and New Mexico Securities Division investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim S. Vasquez is prosecuting this case.
Updated April 8, 2020
Press Release Number: 20-063
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud