Four persons have been charged with conspiracy and fraud for obtaining money from small business owners for grant funding and services that they never provided or intended to provide, announced U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada and Laura A. Bucheit, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI for Nevada.
Jason Demko, 38, Lorraine Riddiough, 66, Lissette Alvarez, 27, all of Las Vegas, and Mark Jones, 32, of Barberton, Ohio, are charged in a criminal indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and criminal forfeiture. Riddiough, Alvarez, and Jones were arrested in Las Vegas.
“Unfortunately, advance fee fraud schemes are very common,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “The con artist will ask for money up front before any tangible service or product is provided, and it will be very difficult to get your money back once you have turned it over to the scammers.”
“”These arrests emphasize the FBI’s continued commitment to investigate financial crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Bucheit. “It also serves as a reminder for consumers to protect themselves, and remember if it seems too good to be true, it almost always is.”
According to the indictment and other court records, from about January 2013 to February 2014, the defendants allegedly made false and fraudulent representations and promises to small business owners to persuade and induce them to pay initial fees, usually between $2,500 and $5,000 for goods and services they thought would help them obtain grants for their businesses. The business owners were told that the total cost for obtaining a grant was between $10,000 and $15,000, depending on the total amount of funding requested, and that the remaining fees would not be charged until the owners received 100 percent of the grant funding. Among other things, the defendants falsely stated that they represented a company named Foundation Processing Center in Wilmington, Del., when in fact, they represented JCD Business Services in Las Vegas; falsely stated that only certain clients had qualified for grants, when in fact anyone who paid the fees were qualified by the defendants; and stated that they had obtained grants for other clients, when in fact they had not done so. The defendants also re-solicited clients for additional fees, including business plans, when they knew that the plans were not going to assist the clients in obtaining any grants. The defendants knew that the true purpose of their solicitations was to obtain funds to personally enrich themselves.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on all counts.