(STL.News) – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the unsealing of an indictment charging Lori Owen (48, Holiday) with 14 counts of fraud, 4 counts of money laundering, and 2 counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, Owens faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each fraud count, 10 years in federal prison for each money laundering count, and 2 years’ consecutive imprisonment for the identity theft counts. The indictment also notifies Owen that the United States is seeking a money judgment of at least $264,260, the proceeds of the alleged offenses.
According to the indictment, Owen, and others, recruited individual “straw account owners” to open bank accounts for the purpose of depositing money that had been extorted from victims of tax impersonation calls.
The victims in the scheme were contacted by callers who falsely represented themselves as officials with the Internal Revenue Service, the Canadian tax authorities, or local law enforcement officers demanding payment for federal income taxes, or other financial obligations. The fraudulent callers told the victims that, if they failed to pay these purported obligations, they, or their family members, would face arrest, prosecution, or other legal consequences. Owen, and others, monitored the straw bank accounts in order to verify the victims’ deposits and ensure timely withdrawals by the straw account owners. The straw account owners withdrew the funds in cash and turned them over to Owen (and others), often less a payment to the straw account owner for opening the account or conducting the transaction.
As to the telemarketing fraud scheme, Owen and others recruited an individual to be the owner of a Florida business and open bank accounts in the business name, for the purpose of depositing the proceeds of a sweepstakes fraud. Owen’s conspirators called elderly victims and falsely represented that they were with the Publisher’s Clearing House lottery and that the victim had won millions of dollars. The callers induced the victims to provide financial information and to send large cashier’s checks to this company in Florida, by falsely claiming that advance taxes had to be paid in order to collect the full amount of the alleged lottery winnings. Owen, and others, then laundered the proceeds of this fraud scheme.
In 2018, Owen’s former husband, David Owen, and son, Andrew Corrigan, were convicted and sentenced to 130 and 120 months’ imprisonment, respectively, for the same criminal conduct.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, the Largo Police Department, the Gulfport Police Department, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kelley Howard-Allen and Rachel Jones.