Married Couple Sentenced for Laundering $1.4 Million in Proceeds from Jewelry Thefts and Unemployment Fraud During Pandemic
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – July 17, 2023
SAN DIEGO – An indictment unsealed in federal court today charges Alexandra Crystal McFarland and Demetrius Montre McFarland, a married couple, with participating in a scheme to steal IRS stimulus payments during the COVID-19 pandemic from destitute and vulnerable victims and using the proceeds to purchase a luxury vehicle, jewelry and furniture.
The indictment alleges that between April 2020 and at least September 2020, Mrs. McFarland approached homeless and low-income individuals throughout Southern California for the purpose of soliciting and collecting their personal identifying information (“PII”). Mrs. McFarland then allegedly used that information—along with the PII of detainees at two local detention facilities—to submit applications for Economic Impact Payments (EIP) from the IRS, which are commonly referred to as “stimulus payments.”
For his part, Mr. McFarland allegedly provided Mrs. McFarland with the PII of his fellow detainees at the Vista Detention Center. Mr. McFarland is presently serving a state prison term for attempted murder.
Mrs. McFarland allegedly made false representations to obtain the PII, including that those providing their PII to her could expect to receive an EIP in the mail, when in fact Mrs. McFarland directed payment of the EIP to a bank account that she controlled. Similarly, Mrs. McFarland also allegedly claimed she would assist with the application in exchange for an agreed-upon portion of the EIP, but in fact would keep more than the agreed-upon amount—and sometimes the entire EIP. The indictment further alleges that Mrs. McFarland also used victims’ PII without lawful authority to apply for benefit payments from the State of California Employment Development Department.
The indictment states that Mrs. McFarland used various EDD debit cards to purchase thousands of dollars of jewelry, nearly $9,000 in furniture that she shipped to her Spring Valley residence, and to cover part of a $60,000 down payment for a Mercedes-Benz G-Class 550 SUV that she purchased in the name “Alexa McFarland.” In addition to the conspiracy count, the indictment charges Mrs. McFarland with money laundering based on her purchase of the luxury vehicle, which the IRS has seized.
Mrs. McFarland entered a not guilty plea on July 17, 2023. A detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Berg is scheduled for July 20, 2023, and a motion hearing and trial setting before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel is scheduled for August 7, 2023.
Mr. McFarland is expected to make his initial appearance on July 18, 2023. Mr. McFarland will be arraigned on both the indictment and on allegations that he violated the terms of supervised release imposed in his prior federal conviction for Conspiracy to Conduct Enterprise Affairs Through a Pattern of Racketeering Activity (RICO) in Criminal Case No. 17-CR-270-JAH.
DEFENDANTS Case Number 23-CR-1098-GPC
Alexandra Crystal McFarland Age: 32 San Diego, CA
Demetrius Montre McFarland Age: 30 San Diego, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy–Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371
Maximum penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 fine
Money Laundering–Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1957
Maximum penalty: Ten years in prison and $250,000 fine
Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation
*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
Assistant U. S. Attorneys Eric R. Olah (619) 546-7540 and Joseph Orabona (619) 546-7951