Fraudsters Involved in Gold Purchase Scheme are Sentenced
DALLAS—Two individuals who defrauded Dallas-area investors in a gold purchase scheme they were involved in during late 2010 have been sentenced, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Annetta Lou Smith, aka “Annette Crawford,” 49, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor to 30 months in federal prison. Co-defendant Warren Michael Hills, 54, of New Orleans, Louisiana, was sentenced earlier this month to 13 months in federal prison. Judge O’Connor ordered each defendant to pay $464,035 in restitution, jointly and severally. Each pleaded guilty in January 2014 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to documents filed in the case, on August 27, 2013, Smith was informed that an indictment charging her and Hills with fraud would be presented to a federal grand jury in Dallas the following week. On Sunday evening, September 1, 2013, Smith was arrested on a criminal complaint by FBI agents at JFK International Airport, where she was awaiting a flight to Ghana, West Africa, scheduled to depart later that evening. She has been in custody since that time. Hills was arrested in New Orleans the following month, and Judge O’Connor remanded him into custody after his sentencing on May 15, 2014.
According to plea papers filed in the case, Smith and Hills worked together to recruit investors to purchase gold from the country of Ghana, West Africa. Smith and Hills represented to two particular investors that if these investors wired their funds to a specific bank account in Ghana and then they would cause the promised (and paid for) gold to be shipped to the investors. These two investors suffered substantial financial losses as a direct result of the failure of Smith and Hills to cause all the promised gold to be delivered to them.
Although both Smith and Hills knew that the investors had fully paid for all of their promised gold, they also knew that all the promised gold was ultimately never going to be shipped to them. Rather than be truthful to the investors, Smith and Hills made false representations to them promising the remaining gold would be shipped.
Smith and Hills caused substantial monetary losses to investors, including approximate total net losses of $113,483 to investor P.G. and approximately total net losses of $325,000 to investor M.W.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
The FBI investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis prosecuted.