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Press Release

Seven Individuals Sentenced to Prison for Online Fraud Scams

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Mississippi


Seven defendants were sentenced for their roles in online fraud schemes involving counterfeit checks, “mystery shopper” websites and work-from-home scams, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis of the Southern District of Mississippi and Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr. of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Gulfport, Mississippi, Office.

Funso Hassan, 27, of Ibadan, Nigeria, and Anthony Shane Jeffers, 44, of Maryville, Tennessee, each pleaded guilty on April 12, 2016, to one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft and theft of government property and one count of use of mail and an interstate facility to distribute proceeds of a racketeering activity.  Hassan and Jeffers were each sentenced to 120 months in prison.  Ann Louise Franzen, 70, of Kiln, Mississippi; Gary Melvin Barnard, 64, of Palestine, Texas; Michele Gayle Fee, 55, of Stockton, California; Tanya Lynn Thomas, 52, of Turlock, California; and Shawn Ann White, 44, of Manteca, California, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft and theft of government property.  Franzen, Barnard, Fee, Thomas, and White were each sentenced to 60 months in prison.  The defendants were sentenced yesterday by Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. of the Southern District of Mississippi and restitution for all defendants will be determined at a later date.

According to admissions made in connection with their plea agreements, all seven defendants were members of a large-scale international financial fraud conspiracy that included romance scams through on-line dating sites, check fraud, secret shopper schemes, and personal assistant work-from-home schemes.  Some of the defendants started as romance scam victims before later becoming knowing participants in the counterfeit check fraud.  Victims were sent checks with mystery shopper and personal assistant instructions.  The checks, which were counterfeit,  would bounce after the victims transmited  proceeds to various locations in the United States which were then laundered for transmission to Nigeria.  Victims were then liable to their banks for the amount of checks and often hundreds of dollars in bank fees. 

HSI investigated the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams of the Southern District of Mississippi, Trial Attorney Conor Mulroe of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, and Senior Counsel Peter Roman of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section prosecuted the case.

Updated January 17, 2017