A 65-year-old Napa resident pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in a scheme that involved convincing victims to send money for immediate medical needs of a purportedly sick heiress of a billion-dollar estate.
There was no such heiress. Nearly 40 fraud victims sent more than $5.6 million to help her out. The money went to Robert Stephens of Napa, along with four accomplices, according to the Department of Justice.
Sentencing for Stephens of Napa and other defendants will come later this year. A federal court in San Jose sentenced Laurence Miles, 76, of Great Britain, to 108 months in federal prison for his role in the crime, including fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The Internal Revenue Service and FBI investigated the fraud, which took place from 2009 through 2015, and possibly as long as a decade.
Other California defendants were Shirley Molina, 70, of Hawthorne; Munsif Shirazi, 49, of Bell Canyon; and Rayan Lakshmanan, 48, of Davis.
The defendants told victims that the heiress had her money tied up in a secret probate case and needed cash for medical expenses. They promised a return of $1,000 for every $1 provided for her care, indicating that the money would come when the probate case settled.
In addition to the nine-year prison term, Miles was ordered to serve a three-year period of supervised release and to pay a forfeiture money judgment of $5,628,765. He will begin serving his sentence in October after a hearing to determine the amount of restitution he owes his victims. Until the restitution hearing, Miles will remain on electronic monitoring and must remain at his residence with limited exceptions.
James Dunn covers technology, biotech, law, the food industry, and banking and finance. Reach him at: email@example.com or 707-521-4257