On August 22, 2017, a 62-year-old woman from Escalon, California was sentenced on international fraud charges. Susan Ann Villeneuve was involved in a 2014 scam involving sixteen individuals, who were arrested in South Africa, California, Canada, New York, Wisconsin, and Indiana. U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden sentenced the defendant to 84 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The defendant has also been ordered to pay $32,857 in restitution for losses to 10 counterfeit check victims. Once she is released from prison, Villeneuve will be required to serve three years of supervised release. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charges earlier.
The case centered around a West African transnational organized criminal enterprise, which carried out numerous financial fraud schemes over the Internet. The fraud involved re-shipping scams, work-at-home scams, romance scams and fraudulent check scams. The group also participated in bank, financial and credit card account take overs.
In October 2011, an investigation was initiated by Homeland Security Investigations agents after law enforcement in the United States were contacted by a female from Mississippi who had been the victim of a sweetheart scam. The victim had received a parcel in the mail. She was told to reship the package to an address in Pretoria, South Africa. The investigation later discovered that the package contained merchandise purchased with stolen information and credit card information from a victim in the United States.
The investigation eventually identified hundreds of victims in the United States and millions of dollars in losses. Villeneuve was accused of sending out more than $26 million in counterfeit checks to victims across the United States utilizing UPS, FedEx and USPS. Those that believe they may have been a victim of criminal fraud carried out by the defendants are encouraged to contact the government at [email protected]