On June 2nd, a 61-year-old woman was sentenced to six months in federal prison for her part in a counterfeiting scheme involving fake money orders from Nigeria.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that West Virginia native Linda Walker was convicted of passing off counterfeit money orders shipped from con artists in Nigeria to a connection in Atlanta, who in turn passed them off to Walker and co-conspirator Monica Mason.
Mason was recently convicted but was sentenced to probation and home confinement.
Her defense lawyer argued that Walker turned to the scamming operation after losing her job as a secretary for the West Virginia Division of Veterans Affairs. The defense also pointed out that the amounts stolen from each victim was relatively small, usually less than $1000.
Her lawyer recommended probation during sentencing, deeming the defendant to be a person of high morals. Several of Walker’s friends testified to that effect in court.
However, the judge in the case sentenced her to six months in federal prison and six months of home detention upon her release on probation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Hull pointed out during court that though the amounts stolen from any particular victim were small, the number of victims was quite high.
“The scheme functioned on volume of victims deceived, not the size of the amount of money fraudulently obtained from any particular victim,” Hull said.
The Atlanta connection, Shawn Foote, is awaiting sentencing after having plead guilty.
The scheme involved Walker and Mason laundering counterfeit money orders and checks from Foote by fooling victims into thinking they were acting as “mystery shoppers.” The victims would purchase the money orders of up to $975 each in order to make small purchases in local stores and would send any leftover funds back to Mason and Walker.
When the victims’ banks, however, released the money orders and checks were fake, they forced the victims to pay the money lost.
When Foote was caught in 2013 due to an informant, she confessed to laundering more than $337,000 in counterfeit notes.
In order to protect against counterfeit notes and currency, many companies use money counting machines that can automatically detect fake notes as well as maintain 100% accuracy for cash transactions.