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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 7, 2020

Saltville Man Who Lied About His Own Death Pleads Guilty To Series of Federal Charges Including Bankruptcy Fraud, Wire Fraud, Aggravated Identity Fraud

ABINGDON, Va. – A Saltville, Va., man, who lied about his own death in order to hide assets from the federal bankruptcy court and later fraudulently assumed the identity of an attorney from Florida to further the scheme, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Abingdon to a series of crimes, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced.

“In an effort to game the bankruptcy system, Mr. Geyer devised a made-for-TV plot that ultimately collapsed under its own weight,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today.  “The audacity of his fraud scheme not only shocks the conscience, but it offends the integrity of our judicial system.”

“Despite its complexity and shameless use of deceit, including against his own wife, Mr. Geyer’s scheme failed to account for the FBI’s and the US Attorney’s office’s commitment to protect both fraud victims and our judicial system.” Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division David W. Archey said today. “Yesterday's guilty plea is a just and fitting end to Mr. Geyer’s audacious plan.  We are grateful for the USAO’s efforts and assistance in this case.”

Yesterday in U.S. District Court, Russell Geyer, 50, pleaded guilty to one count of contempt of court, one count of bankruptcy fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity fraud. At sentencing, Geyer faces up to life in federal prison. He will be sentenced on August 6, 2020, at 2:30 p.m.

According to court documents, Geyer devised a scheme to defraud the United States Bankruptcy Court through a series of deceptive statements designed to hide assets and maintain control of collateral. These actions included, but were not limited to, repeatedly lying about fake medical conditions, including prostate cancer, bone cancer, cardiac issues, a brain aneurysm, and pneumonia. 

On August 30, 2019, the attorney working for Geyer informed the court that he had received an email purportedly from Russell Geyer’s wife, stating that Russell was dead. In fact, Russell Geyer had sent the email posing as his wife.

At a September 5, 2019 hearing, Mrs. Geyer testified that her husband was alive and that neither she, nor Russell Geyer, had been out of town and in the hospital for the serious medical conditions claimed by the defendant throughout the case.

During the September 5, 2019 hearing, Russell Geyer’s attorney read into the record an email he received from an attorney in Florida indicating that the Florida attorney had sold some of the assets involved in the bankruptcy proceedings without the Geyers’ knowledge. The email further stated that he had complete control of Russell and told him to kill himself. The attorney concluded the email with “I am on a plane out of the country.”

The investigation determined that the Florida attorney whose name was used in the email actually exists but had nothing to do with this case. Instead, Russell Geyer used the Florida attorney’s name and a bogus email account to send these emails without the Florida attorney’s knowledge.

Further investigation revealed that Geyer had assumed the Florida attorney’s identity to fraudulently obtain $70,000 from his own wife. Geyer told his wife that he was going to receive more than $1 million in a settlement from a case that the Florida attorney was handling for him.  Geyer said he needed money to pay the attorney’s fees before the money would be released.  Geyer then used a bogus email address and an app that disguised his voice to pose as the Florida attorney and to confirm that a settlement was imminent.  It was all untrue.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer is prosecuting the case for the United States.

Topic(s): 
Bankruptcy
Identity Theft
Updated May 7, 2020