Money Mules Are The Backbone Of Online Criminal Enterprises
More and More, Police & Prosecutors Are Losing Patience with Mules that Do Not Come Forward to End the Criminality!
HERE ARE TWO EXAMPLES
Bristol Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud Financial Institutions
ABINGDON, Virginia – Kathleen Littleford, a Bristol, Virginia (U.S.A.) woman, who fraudulently opened several bank accounts, deposited counterfeit checks, and shipped large quantities of cash overseas in order to assistant a man with whom she was involved in an online relationship, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to a federal conspiracy charge, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar announced.
Littleford, 76, waived her right to be indicted and pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to execute a scheme to defraud financial institutions to obtain money by false pretenses. At sentencing, Littleford faces up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1 million. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for April 6, 2021.
“Financial fraud cases like this are not victimless crimes,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar said today. “Thousands of Americans are targeted in similar online financial schemes, and when they willingly participate, the fraud is perpetuated. The Western District of Virginia is committed to investigating and prosecuting these kinds of online fraud schemes and we appreciate the good work of our federal and state partners in this case.”
According to court documents, beginning in 2018, Littleford opened a series of bank accounts for the purpose of depositing counterfeit checks and receiving fraudulent transfers of funds from other banking institutions. She did so to assist a man she met online calling himself Frank Peterson. Beginning with his introduction and continuing to the present day, Littleford engaged in an amorous relationship with Peterson, engaging in frequent emailing, text messaging, Facebook messaging, and phone call communications.
“Peterson” made representations to Littleford over the course of their relationship that he made a lot of money in a trade deal in Dubai, that those funds were encumbered by the IRS due to taxes he owed, that he had a lot of money tied up in stocks, and that he needed Littleford’s help receiving funds from banking institutions because he could not transfer money himself, due to the IRS claims on his accounts.
Littleford admitted today that premised on Peterson’s representations and enticed by a reciprocal love and devotion he showed her, Littleford undertook extraordinary measures to comply with Peterson’s fraudulent financial requests. Littleford knew what she was doing was wrong, but knowingly and willfully engaged in the conduct anyway.
Over the course of the scheme, Littleford opened accounts with at least five local banks and fraudulently received move than $190,000 in funds to which she was not entitled.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service and the Russell County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Daniel J. Murphy is prosecuting the case for the United States.
Here is her LinkedIn Profile: Kathleen Littleford | LinkedIn
U.S. State of Arkansas Attorney general sues woman for alleged ‘money mule’ role in online scam
State Attorney Rutledge said the Hot Springs woman “essentially helped to funnel money, estimated at perhaps upwards of $6-million, to scheme operators in Jamaica.”
State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is suing a Hot Springs Arkansas woman and accusing her of being a “money mule” who facilitated a fake online lottery scam for thieves in Jamaica.
“Jean Butler has been acting as a money mule and facilitating a multi-million dollar sweepstakes scheme,” the Republican attorney general said during a Wednesday news conference. “She essentially helped to funnel money, estimated at perhaps upwards of $6-million, to scheme operators in Jamaica.”
Butler, 73, allegedly served as the American midpoint in addition to being the mule.
Typically, in scams targeting the elderly, the caller says you won a huge prize if you just pay us a fee. Rutledge says Butler didn’t make the calls, but instead, opened the bank accounts for the victims to deposit money into, which thieves in the island nation would then plunder.
“They were simply having to ‘pay the taxes’ or having to pay a fee associated with that prize,” Rutledge said. “Jean Butler would then allow someone in Jamaica to withdraw those monies.”
The civil lawsuit says as many as 50 victims came from across the country and Canada. A woman in Missoula, Mont., first mentioned a specific person in Hot Springs to authorities, triggering the Arkansas investigation.
Other victims came from Nebraska, Kansas, and Ontario.
Rutledge hinted that Butler may have been lured into the scheme by online or e-mail ads that offer easy “work from home” jobs, but she vehemently stressed that she believes Butler knew what she was doing.
“Jean Butler knew exactly what she was doing,” she said. “Jean Butler accepted these checks, she opened up bank accounts, and when the bank accounts by the bank, she would open up another bank account.”
The attorney general shared other details from the investigation, including Butler allegedly telling banks she would be traveling to Jamaica, and so there was no need to flag any suspicious transactions.
“Customs has informed us she does not even have a passport, much less traveled to Jamaica,” Rutledge said.
The case is a civil lawsuit, but Rutledge says the FBI has a criminal investigation underway. A phone number connected to Butler’s address is disconnected. The summons was set to be served Wednesday, so court records did not list a lawyer for Butler that evening.
It will eventually go before Judge Wendell Griffen in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
How To Stop Being A Mule?
As we have said many times, a Mule must report the crimes and their involvement to the local police immediately. However, we also strongly recommend that they contact a criminal defense attorney first to explore the case and have the attorney negotiate their cooperation to minimize the potential consequences.
Historically, money mules that were lured into helping a criminal as a part of a romance scam have not been prosecuted, as long as they came forward voluntarily. When the police discover a mule through investigation and find that they have remained silent then that is a different story, with a much more tragic potential outcome.
A SINGLE MONEY MULE CAN BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE VICTIMIZATION OF THOUSANDS OF VICTIMS.
Stopping money mules is key to reducing scams and fraud schemes worldwide.
Every money mule has the choice to stop and to report the crime.
Not reporting is a choice, they then become an accessory.