Federal Grand Jury in Fort Wayne Returns a Seven-Count Indictment
FORT WAYNE, IN—The United States Attorney’s Office announced the return of an indictment charging Kelly Custer, 53, of Fort Wayne, Indiana; William Custer, Jr., 26 of Fort Wayne, Indiana; Ashley Custer, 25, of Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Sidney Custer, 24, of New Haven, Indiana with 1 count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Kelly Custer was also charged with 3 counts of wire fraud and 3 counts of interstate communications with intent to extort. The government is also seeking forfeiture by way of a money judgment in the amount of approximately $1.5 million as well as forfeiture of real property.
According to documents filed in this case, on March 19, 2015, individuals reported to law enforcement that they were being extorted by the mafia. The individuals provided information detailing an extortion scheme that started in 2007 when they lived in Fort Wayne and continued as they moved to Florida where they currently reside.
According to the individuals, the extortion began after they were informed by Kelly Custer that the mafia had determined that they owed a debt and that if they did not pay the debt their lives, their friends’, families’ lives or her life would be in jeopardy. The individuals indicated that they initially received all the information concerning the extortion through Kelly Custer, and that she relayed the threats and demands to them personally. After the individuals moved to Florida, however the threats continued from Kelly Custer in the form of texts causing the individuals to believe some messages came from actual mafia members. In February of 2015, the individuals were informed that Kelly Custer had been killed as a result of problems she had with the mafia; however the individuals continued to receive threatening text messages from persons identifying themselves to be mafia members utilizing Kelly Custer’s phone.
The individuals made the demanded payments primarily to Kelly Custer, but also directed payments William Custer, Jr., Ashley Custer, and Sidney Custer on numerous occasions as they were instructed to do in the threatening text messages. The individuals reported that, in response to the threatening text messages, they had paid “the mafia” approximately 1.5 million over the past seven years, and approximately $250,000-$300,000 since moving to Florida. They said that, in response to threats they usually paid between $3,000 and $10,000 at a time, but that on at least one occasion they paid $50,000 after receiving a threatening message indicating that if they did not pay that amount a friend’s daughter would be killed.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nathaniel C. Henson.
The United States Attorney’s Office emphasized that an Indictment is merely an allegation and that all persons charged are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If convicted in court, any specific sentence to be imposed will be determined by the judge after a consideration of federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.