Con Artists That Cheated Inmates And Their Families Are Now Inmates
This is one of those cases where after I read it, I was filled with numerous emotions. I was saddened by knowing there are heartless people who take advantage of the vulnerable. I was saddened that those financially and emotionally damaged will not recover their losses. I felt despair because the perpetrators ran their scam for 7 years before they were brought to justice. I felt anger that the perpetrators would use the federal judicial system to illegally enrich themselves.
I was frightened because based on the charges, had they not used mail and wire in conducting their activity, they might have gotten away with it unless the states where they operated found an appropriate charge.
As Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, describes this case;
“Sentencing reduction fraud schemes that prey on the desperation, vulnerability and trust of federal inmates and their families exploit both the victims and the justice system. Federal partners across the nation will continue to target such schemes and prosecute the offenders.”
That is one reason why I feel this case is important to write about; i.e., there might still be con artists conducting this crime. The public needs to know about this.
Imagine that you have a relative serving time in federal prison. Along comes a company that promises they will get the sentence reduced by filing a Rule 35 Motion. They require payment for their services.
As an average person who knows little to nothing about Federal Rules, would you know how to look it up? Would you know about “standing” to understand the correct procedures?
In the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 35 allows the court to reduce a defendant’s sentence if the defendant is found to have provided substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person. ONLY GOVERNMENT PROSECUTORS CAN FILE SUCH A MOTION, AND THEY DO IT WITHOUT CHARGE.
On June 29, 2017, 40-year old Alvin James Warrick of Beaumont, Texas was sentenced in Miami, Florida to 235 months in prison. On the same day, 36-year old Colitha Patrice Bush of Port Arthur, Texas was sentenced in Miami, Florida to 96 months in prison. They have been ordered to forfeit $4.4 million. U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard of the Southern District of Florida entered the sentence.
Previously, Warrick and Bush pled guilty to wire and mail fraud conspiracy charges in connection with the scam they operated that targeted federal inmates and their families in Miami-Dade County and elsewhere.
In addition to their sentences for the Southern District of Florida matter, Warrick and Bush were also sentenced in a related case originally brought in the Eastern District of Texas, and subsequently transferred to Florida.
A third person was involved named Roland Bennett Shepherd, 32, of Houston, Texas, was sentenced to 28 months. He pled guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in the scam.
The scam was run from 2009 through September 7, 2016. The perpetrators held themselves out as owners and operators of Private Services, a company that reportedly worked with a network of informants and law enforcement personnel to identify and provide information and third party cooperation that could be credited to federal inmates in Rule 35 proceedings.
They used aliases such as “Peter Candlewood,” “Diane Lane,” and “Diane Rice,” targeting federal inmates and their families by phone, text, email, mail and in-person services.
According to the FBI’s Press Release, the perpetrators
“promised they could provide substantial assistance services which would be used to help secure the early release of the inmates. In return, the defendants required relatives of the federal inmates to make periodic payments via cash, check, wire, Western Union, and MoneyGram, in order for the third party cooperation process to supposedly begin. Overall, more than $4.4 million was paid to the defendants by at least twenty-two victims, several of whom addressed the Court during Warrick and Bush’s sentencing hearing.”
Warrick and Bush made fraudulent invoices and documents showing signed agreements between various U.S. Attorney offices with forged signatures of prosecutors. Warrick, Bush and Shepherd used the money they scammed to purchase luxury cars, vacations, and for gambling.
Investigation efforts included the FBI, the Houston police department, the U.S. Attorney’s offices in the Eastern District of New York, the Northern District of New York, the Southern District of New York, Eastern District of Texas, and Eastern District of Virginia.
Posted on 07/07/2017, in Cases, Department of Justice and tagged Alvin James Warrick, Colitha Patrice Bush, con, conspiracy, federal inmates, Florida, Roland Bennett Shepherd, Rule 35, Rule 35 scam, scam, Texas, wire fraud. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.
Scum. Am reading, am interested in knowing especially if the plea deal includes anonymity while they are imprisoned. I love the way the plea agreement states ‘this is a prediction and not a promise and is not binding on this Office,’
These people are the lowest of the low. To take money for broken dreams.
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Yes, Mindyme. It’s disgusting.
This case points out another quite possible failing in penal systems, not only here in the US, but worldwide. A person that is a violent offender: a rapist, murderer, torturer, and the like need not and should not be incarcerated with offenders of lesser brutality and will usually receive harsher sentencing punishment. This seems fair to me.
However, those who offend in a significant scheming, underhanded, financial way generally serve less time. It seems to me that if society sentences a person that robs someone of their $500 paycheck to say, 5years, the person who cons 20 people out of $100,000 should be sentenced to 20 x 5 years.
Instead they are more likely to receive a sentence of 24 months or some other nonsensically inadequate punishment.
There seems to be a predilection to ‘lump’ all the crimes together and render a sentence as if for only one offense. When we are talking about profits in the millions of dollars I fail to see the deterrent.
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It would be interesting to see the demographics of the victims families. I would suspect that they were relatively affluent or, IMO it is unlikely that justice would have been sought. One thing that this nation shares with the rest of the world, wealth often prevents justice when a person of that status is involved unless they are the victim and not the perp! As Jay S Parks said punishment is seldom proportional to the crime but is far too often based upon the social and economic status of the criminal! It never ceases to amaze me to read several articles in the news involving crime, such as the man who robs a convenience store for $50 receives a sentence of 20 years and the man who swindles hundreds of people out of $25 million receives 2 years probation and a $50 fine… The great American justice system at it finest, right?
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Jay and Mothman,
What you say about sentencing is true. We owe that to legislatures. They have divided intentional crimes into civil and criminal. A $50 robbery is criminal and if the conducted with a weapon, there are more charges. On the other hand, million dollar swindles are not crimes of force, and victims will probably be told to obtain private legal counsel by their local law enforcement, although they do not know the real names and locations of the perpetrators.
Because the perps in this case conducted the scam across state lines, used mail and electronic means, the feds got involved.
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Good, because even families of short-term inmates go through hell and it’s just that much worse for long-term inmates.
Hi Two Sides! Yes. I don’t know how they got away with it for so long. There are other con operations that require payment through wire services or the like, and most people catch on that the culprit doesn’t want to leave a track back to themselves.