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Press Release

Two Defendants Sentenced to Federal Prison for Multimillion-Dollar Fraud Scheme Targeting Senior Citizens

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that two defendants were sentenced for participating in an international fraud conspiracy that targeted senior citizens in several states, including Michigan. Jmyla Elaine Sha’Taria White, 29, of Thonotosassa, Florida, was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $3,224,549 in restitution to victims of the conspiracy that she defrauded.  McKhaela Katelynn McNamara, 28, of Flint, Michigan, was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $693,073 in restitution to victims. 

          “Our seniors are being targeted by financial scammers at an alarming rate,” said U.S. Attorney Totten. “My office is committed to educating the public about financial schemes that inflict financial harm and defraud unsuspecting victims of their hard-earned money. We will continue working with our local, state, and federal partners to hold fraudsters accountable and secure a measure of justice for their victims.”

          White and McNamara were two of seven defendants charged last year with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  Both pled guilty in January 2024. When imposing the sentences, U.S. District Judge Jane M. Beckering said, “This is one of the most reprehensible fraud schemes I have seen.  This wasn’t just a theft of money.  It was a theft of dignity, and a theft of security. This was a heinous crime that devastated people who worked hard their whole lives, and now their money is gone.”                     

          The fraud scheme began when victims received a message on their computers warning that a virus had infected their devices.  The messages urged the victims to call a number to get help. When the victims called the number provided, they got a response from someone claiming to work for a tech company, such as Microsoft or Apple.  In truth, they were scammers located in India, who scared the victims into giving money to the conspiracy with a variety of different ruses. 

          In one version of the scam, victims were told that their bank accounts had been compromised and they needed to withdraw all their cash and give it to fake “federal agents” for safekeeping.  In another version, victims were told that their computers had been infected by a virus and they needed to pay for technical support.  In a third version, victims were told that they had been identified in a criminal investigation and needed to turn over money to clear their names.  Regardless of which ruse was used, the result was the same: victims were convinced to give money to the scammers. Victims did this during in-person meetings with fake “federal agents,” by mailing boxes of cash to addresses provided by the scammers, by wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the scammers, or through gift cards they purchased at the direction of the scammers.

          According to court records, White and McNamara personally met with victims to collect packages of money from them, which they then passed on to higher-level members of the conspiracy.  White also recruited others to join the conspiracy.   A victim in West Michigan lost $398,000 to the conspiracy. 

          “The defendants participated in an elaborate fraud conspiracy that targeted mostly elderly victims, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Every day, fraudsters are becoming more clever and organized to steal citizens’ hard-earned money, so it is important to report these crimes to the FBI for help. If you believe you may have fallen victim to a scheme like this, you can file a report at or contact our office at 313-965-2323.”

          The Justice Department, FBI, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service recently announced the completion of The Money Mule Initiative,” a national campaign to identify, disrupt, and criminally prosecute complex fraud schemes. These schemes often rely on “money mules” – people who receive fraudulent proceeds, retain a portion, and forward the remainder to a co-conspirator – to facilitate schemes that often originate overseas. Many “advance fee” fraud schemes target older Americans and use various false stories designed to manipulate victims to mail, wire, or hand money to “money mules” located in the United States.

          This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in Michigan.  Assistant United States Attorney Clay Stiffler prosecuted the case. 

          The charges against the other members of the conspiracy who have not yet pled guilty are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

          For more information on preventing elder fraud and help for victims, visit the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative website, which includes a list of Michigan-specific resources. The FBI Elder Fraud website also provides several resources, including the following tips to help seniors protect themselves:

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, text messages, mailings, and door-to-door services offers.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don't know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
  • Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.

          If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish, and other languages are available. The Federal Trade Commission also provides a hotline at 877-FTC-HELP and a website at to receive consumer complaints.


Updated May 17, 2024

Financial Fraud