Two St. Robert Women Plead Guilty to Nigerian Fraud Scheme
Must Pay $3 Million Restitution to Thousands of Victims Nationwide
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that two St. Robert, Mo., women have pleaded guilty in federal court to their roles in a Nigerian fraud scheme in which thousands of victims across the country were tricked into cashing up to $3 million in counterfeit money orders and cashier’s checks.
Lisa Kaye Barwick-Majeski, 54, of St. Robert, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to leading the conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Co-defendant Cheryl Barber, 41, also of St. Robert, pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy on Feb. 10, 2015.
Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Barwick-Majeski must pay up to $3 million in restitution to her victims and must forfeit $1,485,301 to the government.
By pleading guilty today, Barwick-Majeski admitted that she was the primary leader of a conspiracy that involved counterfeit postal money orders, counterfeit bank cashier’s checks and numerous wires to unindicted co-conspirators in the country of Nigeria.
Barwick-Majeski, with the help of Barber and other co-conspirators, dispatched counterfeit postal money orders and bogus cashier checks to thousands of victims throughout the United States. These false money orders and cashier checks were deposited in victims’ bank accounts after the victims were duped into believing they were paid participants as part of a “secret shopper” exercise designed for them to evaluate Wal-Mart and various money wire outlets. The victims were instructed to keep approximately $200 or more of the less than $2,000 counterfeited postal money order or bogus cashier’s check, and immediately wire the remaining money to Barwick-Majeski and her co-defendants. After a few days, the counterfeited money order or bogus cashier’s check would be returned against the victims’ account as not negotiable. The victims would then be obligated to pay their banks or their financial institutions for most of the money they wired to Barwick-Majeski and others.
Barwick-Majeski and her co-defendants shared most of their proceeds with a group of Nigerians that were responsible for supplying Barwick-Majeski with fraudulent postal money orders and cashier’s checks.
Barber admitted that she wired funds to co-conspirators in Nigeria to further the illegal scheme. Barber admitted that her criminal conduct within the wire fraud conspiracy amounted to approximately $25,129 of illegal wires sent or received by Barber. Under the terms of her plea agreement, Barber must pay restitution to her victims.
During the course of the investigation, according to court documents, law enforcement officers seized more than $1.7 million worth of counterfeit postal money orders. Some of those counterfeit money orders were taken directly from Barwick-Majeski and some were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection or intercepted en route to Barwick-Majeski.
In addition to the counterfeit postal money orders, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Barwick-Majeski’s residence on Nov. 5, 2013, and seized a parcel that contained 354 counterfeit BMO-Harris Bank cashier’s checks with a total face value of more than $1 million. According to court documents, law enforcement officers also seized $406,800 in counterfeit Mid Missouri Credit Union cashier’s checks during the investigation.
Under federal statutes, Barwick-Majeski and Barber are each subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abram McGull, II. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the St. Robert, Mo., Police Department.