‘Incorrigible’ Defendant Responsible for $7.5 Million Bank Fraud Scheme Sentenced to more than 16 Years in Prison
Defendant Finished Last Federal Sentence and Immediately Returned to Fraud Activity on a Bigger Scale
A Seattle man with a lengthy history of bank fraud was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 196 months in prison and five years of supervised release for a $7.5 million bank fraud scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. LONNIE EUGENE LILLARD, 42, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in January 2017. At a subsequent hearing, the court determined that the scheme involved attempts—most of which were successful—to steal more than $7.5 million over a period of about 18 months. At the sentencing hearing Chief Judge Ricardo S. Martinez noted that LILLARD had 12 felony convictions by the age of 20. “You’ve spent your entire life trying to defraud other people . . . . Time spent in prison has not been a deterrent to get you to stop criminal activity.”
According to records filed in the case, LILLARD was the leader of a large group of conspirators who stole point-of-sale terminals, then reprogrammed them with stolen merchant identification numbers to make it appear that the conspirators were in fact the merchants. They used the stolen point-of-sale terminals to process unauthorized return and refund transactions, and applied those credits to thousands of prepaid credit cards, prepaid debit cards, and gift cards. The conspirators then quickly spent the fraudulent proceeds—withdrawing cash from ATMs, buying merchandise they returned for cash, purchasing money orders and other negotiable instruments, transferring the funds to other gift cards or bank accounts, and buying precious metals—before the fraud was detected and the transactions reversed. The co-conspirators hid their fraud in part by setting up their operations first in hotel rooms, then in rented office space, and sometimes spoofing phone numbers, so that the transactions could not easily be traced to them. When search warrants were served on the homes of LILLARD and two of his co-conspirators, as well as a storage locker, law enforcement located more than 1,000 access devices, about 15 point-of-sale terminals, notebooks filled with used and unused merchant identification numbers, and thousands of receipts documenting the fraud. The victims in this case include payment processors (some owned by banks such as Chase) and dozens of merchants such as Old Country Buffet, See’s Candies, Michaels, Quiznos, and many more.
LILLARD was the leader of the scheme, and has a long history of fraud convictions in both state and federal court. In 2006, when LILLARD was sentenced in Nevada to nearly nine years in prison, the prosecutor called him ‘incorrigible’ – something LILLARD denied, claiming he planned to turn his life around upon release from prison. Evidence indicates he began planning the current fraud even before he completed his last prison sentence. Within weeks of his release, LILLARD had the new fraud scheme up and running.
A co-defendant, Nathaniel Wells, who also participated in leading the implementation of the scheme, was sentenced to just over 11 years in prison in March 2018. The defendants are responsible for $5,816,938 in restitution.
The case was investigated by the FBI Cyber Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Erin H. Becker and Special Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Diggs.