Los Angeles Podiatrist Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison for His Role in $3 Million Identity Theft and Bank Fraud Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office June 25, 2013|
LOS ANGELES—The founder of the Releford Foot and Ankle Institute has been sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for his conviction on federal fraud charges related to a bank fraud scheme that used stolen identities to cause two financial institution to suffer $3 million in losses.
Dr. Bill Releford, 53, who resides in downtown Los Angeles, received the two-year sentence yesterday afternoon from United States District Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. In addition to the prison term, Judge Hatter ordered Releford to pay $218,237 in restitution and a $10,000 fine.
Releford pleaded guilty in May 2012 to participating in a scheme to defraud Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank, specifically admitting that he participated in the scheme to obtain money for his medical practice, which has offices in Beverly Hills and Inglewood.
At yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Hatter told Releford that if he was “man enough to do the crime,” then he had to be “man enough to do the time.” Judge Hatter noted Releford’s attempts to rehabilitate himself—such as Releford’s offer to immediately pay $1,500 in restitution and his recent participation in charitable projects—and said this effort spared Releford from a longer prison sentence.
Releford and five other co-defendants operated a scheme to defraud financial institutions by using stolen identities to establish business lines of credit that were fraudulently drawn down to provide money that was used for their personal expenses. After obtaining stolen personal identifying information—including dates of birth, Social Security numbers, credit profiles, and driver’s license numbers from victims with high credit scores, including another physician from Pasadena—members of the conspiracy submitted fraudulent applications for business lines of credit to various banks. Once the applications were approved, the defendants liquidated the credit lines.
Over the course of the scheme, Releford helped the other defendants open at least two credit lines that provided funds for Releford’s medical practice. Releford also attempted to open a third credit line valued at up to $500,000, which he planned to use to fund a clothing business. Releford further participated in the scheme by helping to launder thousands of dollars from other fraudulently obtained credit lines.
A federal grand jury indicted Releford and five others in May 2011 (see: http://www.fbi.gov/losangeles/press-releases/2011/six-los-angeles-residents-charged-in-bank-fraud-scheme-where-stolen-identities-were-used-to-establish-lines-of-credit). The five co-defendants—Andrea Avery Kirkland Charles, William Earl Gordon, Annita Hawes, and James Arthur Booker—previously pleaded guilty and received sentences of up to 88 months in federal prison.
In total, the scheme caused more than $3 million in losses to Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank. The scheme used identities stolen from more than 70 individual victims.
This case was investigated by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and IRS-Criminal Investigation Division.