Man Pleads Guilty in Grant Fraud Involving 390 Victims and More Than $5 Million in Losses
LAS VEGAS, NV—In another case of fraud involving the solicitation of money in exchange for business grants, a Las Vegas man has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada.
Mickey Gines, 41, pleaded guilty on Monday, Feb. 2, before U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Gines is scheduled to be sentenced on June 4, 2015, at 10 a.m., and faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Two others were also charged in the case. Christine M. Gagnon, aka Crystal Waters, 35, of Escanaba, Mich., pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 19, and Gregory Villegas, aka Ray Matsui, aka Ray Mathis, 35, of Las Vegas, is scheduled for trial on March 16. Villegas is in federal custody pending trial.
According to the plea agreement, beginning on about March 1, 2008, and continuing to about May 2, 2012, the defendants entered into a conspiracy to induce small business owners to pay them money for grants that the defendants never intended to pursue. The defendants made numerous false statements to the victims in order to convince them to pay the advance monies, including that they were pre-qualified for or guaranteed “free” private and government grants; that they would partner them with private foundations or government grant programs; that they had obtained grants for other victims; that they would hold their monies in an escrow account; and that their fees were refundable if they did not receive the grants. The defendants knew that their representations were not true, and that they never intended to obtain grants for the victims. Once the defendants received money from the victims, they converted it to their own use. The defendants operated grant funding companies under multiple and evolving names, including BFS Enterprises, Inc. and Global Business Funding, Inc., and used multiple aliases in order to advance the scheme. The defendants repeatedly solicited victims for additional money for goods and services and lulled the victims with false promises of funding and excuses for delays in order to avoid investigation by law enforcement and consumer protection agencies. Using this scheme, the amount of loss that the defendants caused to at least 390 victims was approximately $5.3 million.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina M. Brown.