Ihlenfeld says much can be learned from recent fraud case | #phishing | #scams

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld said a recent conviction in a fraud scheme shows the level to which hustlers will go to rip off older state residents.

A federal jury found Shelly Anne Leipham, 66, of Las Vegas, guilty of three counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud and three counts of money laundering.

U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld

Leipham had convinced an elderly Harrison County woman she had won a million dollars and the money was on its way. She also convinced the victim to send her money to secure the prize. While it might be hard to understand the scheme, Ihlenfeld said it was the right victim and Leipham had the right skill set for the crime.

“This particular defendant was really good and really savvy and sophisticated. She knew what she was doing and had done it to a large number of people. Once you go down that criminal path and start to do this on a regular basis, you start to get good at it,” he explained.

She was able to convince the victim to send her checks in increments of $1,000, $1,500, and $2,000 dollars on multiple occasions. Eventually the money added up to close to $25,000.

“She was persistent. She made lots of phone calls and it got to the point she was harassing these people to get the money and she was successful,” Ihlenfeld said.

Ihlenfeld said unfortunately it was a typical scenario of an elderly person who was being duped and didn’t realize what was happening. However, unlike most of the cases this one had a unique twist in a FedEx driver who saw what was happening and reported the situation to his company’s security. Fed Ex in turn alerted West Virginia State Police who got involved and help solve the situation.

Ihlenfeld said when law enforcement went to Leipham’s Vegas home they found a treasure trove of information.

“They found a home valued at over a half-million dollars, two Corvette’s parked in the garage, and a spreadsheet with a list of other victims whe was taking advantage of across the country,” he said.

Leipham is facing up to 20 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine for each wire fraud and mail fraud count. She is also facing up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 for each money laundering charge.

The federal government is also seeking a money judgment of $336,402.

Ihlenfeld credited the Fed Ex driver who recognized something was a miss. He said that’s what it takes to help protect elderly West Virginians who may not realize what’s going on.

“A Fed Ex Driver, a bank teller, or anybody else who observed an older West Virginian sending money where they shouldn’t be or they’re withdrawing large amounts from their bank account and it doesn’t seem right. They should ask questions and not be afraid to inquire or to contact law enforcement,” he said.

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