Arizona Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Wire Fraud Charges in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE—Joseph Lawler, 54, of Peoria, Ariz., entered a guilty plea in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to a 12-count superseding indictment charging him with wire fraud offenses. The guilty plea, which was entered without the benefit of a plea agreement, was announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division.
Lawler pled guilty to all 12 counts of a superseding indictment that was filed on June 9, 2015, and alleged that between Aug. 2010 and July 2014, Lawler engaged in an illegal scheme to defraud investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lawler executed the scheme by causing others to create a company, Projaris Management, LLC (Projaris), that purported to provide investment services. He also caused others to open four accounts for Projaris at a bank in Farmington, N.M., and one account at a bank in Phoenix, Ariz. Although the bank accounts were not in Lawler’s name and he was not an authorized signer, Lawler exercised sole control over the bank accounts.
The superseding indictment alleged that Lawler used Projaris and the bank accounts to execute a scheme to defraud investors in Projaris by making false representations to obtain investment funds which he used for other purposes. Lawler falsely represented to investors that their funds would be invested in gold, silver, real estate, or real estate investment trust funds. Instead, Lawler used investors’ funds to pay other Projaris investors who threatened to report him to law enforcement authorities. Lawler also used investors’ funds to pay for his living expenses and vehicles.
The superseding indictment includes forfeiture allegations which assert that Lawler derived at least $288,889.50 as a result of his criminal conduct and which require that Lawler forfeit money or assets in that amount.
A sentencing, Lawler faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of the 12 wire fraud charges in the superseding indictment. A sentencing date has not been set.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara C. Neda.