Las Vegas Man Sentenced To More Than Six Years In Prison For $5.3 Million Advance Fee Grant Scheme Targeting Small Business Owners
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A Las Vegas man was sentenced today to 78 months in prison for 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 on March 17, 2017, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In addition to the term of prison, U.S. District Chief Judge Gloria M. Navarro ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $5,908,726.38, and sentenced him to three years of supervised release.
According to his plea agreement, from March 1, 2008 to about May 2, 2012, Villegas and his co-conspirators Christine Gagnon, Mickey Gines, and others, defrauded at least 390 small business owners for an approximate total loss of $5,261,218. Villegas and his conspirators pretended to operate companies that would obtain grants for the small business owners from public and private sources. In truth, Villegas and his conspirators never intended to pursue any grant funding for the victims. The sole purpose of the scam was to enrich Villegas and conspirators. He and his conspirators made numerous false statements, including false promises of grant funding and false claims that grants had been obtained, but that the victims needed to pay additional fees for the grant agencies to release the funds. Villegas operated the scheme under multiple business names to avoid detection by consumer protection agencies and apprehension by law enforcement.
The case was investigated by the FBI and U.S. Secret Service and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Cowhig.