Four Charged in Grant Fraud Scheme
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Four persons have been charged with conspiracy and fraud for obtaining money from small business owners for grant funding and services that they never provided or intended to provide, announced U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada and Laura A. Bucheit, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI for Nevada.
Jason Demko, 38, Lorraine Riddiough, 66, Lissette Alvarez, 27, all of Las Vegas, and Mark Jones, 32, of Barberton, Ohio, are charged in a criminal indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and criminal forfeiture. Riddiough, Alvarez, and Jones were arrested in Las Vegas yesterday. They appeared yesterday before Magistrate Judge Ferenbach and pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were released on personal recognizance bonds pending a March 16 trial date. Demko is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach at 3:00 p.m. today for an arraignment.
“Unfortunately, advance fee fraud schemes are very common,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “The con artist will ask for money up front before any tangible service or product is provided, and it will be very difficult to get your money back once you have turned it over to the scammers.”
“These arrests emphasize the FBI's continued commitment to investigate financial crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Bucheit. “It also serves as a reminder for consumers to protect themselves, and remember if it seems too good to be true, it almost always is."
According to the indictment and other court records, from about January 2013 to February 2014, the defendants allegedly made false and fraudulent representations and promises to small business owners to persuade and induce them to pay initial fees, usually between $2,500 and $5,000 for goods and services they thought would help them obtain grants for their businesses. The business owners were told that the total cost for obtaining a grant was between $10,000 and $15,000, depending on the total amount of funding requested, and that the remaining fees would not be charged until the owners received 100 percent of the grant funding. Among other things, the defendants falsely stated that they represented a company named Foundation Processing Center in Wilmington, Del., when in fact, they represented JCD Business Services in Las Vegas; falsely stated that only certain clients had qualified for grants, when in fact anyone who paid the fees were qualified by the defendants; and stated that they had obtained grants for other clients, when in fact they had not done so. The defendants also re-solicited clients for additional fees, including business plans, when they knew that the plans were not going to assist the clients in obtaining any grants. The defendants knew that the true purpose of their solicitations was to obtain funds to personally enrich themselves.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on all counts.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah E. Griswold.
This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.com.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.