Las Vegas Man Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Commit $5.3 Million In Advance Fee Grant Fraud Scheme
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A Las Vegas man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit a nearly $5.3 million advance fee fraud scheme targeting small business owners seeking grant funding, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre for the District of Nevada.
Gregory Villegas, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was indicted by a superseding indictment on Jan. 13, 2016. Sentencing is scheduled for June 30, 2017, before U.S. District Chief Judge Gloria M. Navarro.
As part of the guilty plea agreement, Villegas admitted that, together with co-conspirators Christine Gagnon, Mickey Gines, and others, he defrauded at least 390 victims for a total approximate loss of $5,261,218, between March 1, 2008 and about May 2, 2012. According to the plea agreement, Villegas and conspirators ran an advance fee scheme to defraud small business owners by pretending to operate companies that would obtain grants for the small business owners from public and private sources. In truth, Villegas and conspirators never intended to pursue any grant funding for the victims. The sole purpose of the scam was to enrich Villegas and conspirators. The plea agreement states that Villegas and conspirators repeatedly solicited victims for additional money for goods and services, and made numerous false statements, including false promises of grant funding and excuses for delays in funding. Villegas admitted that he directed staff to use aliases and operated under multiple business names to avoid lawsuits, actions by consumer protection agencies, and apprehension by law enforcement.
At the time of sentencing, Villegas will face the statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Gagnon pleaded guilty on Nov. 17, 2014, and awaits sentencing scheduled for April 14, 2017; and Gines pleaded guilty on Feb. 2, 2015, and awaits sentencing scheduled for June 22, 2017.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and U.S. Secret Service; and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Cowhig.