Bad Hair Day

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34542226 - hand with credit card swipe through terminal for sale in supermarket

Supposedly, a ”bad hair day” can determine how your day goes. (If you feel like every hair is in place, your confidence is automatically boosted; however, if it’s rainy outside and your coiffure tends to frizz, you may need to hide your hairdo under a hat for the day.) A story posted on FBI.gov tells how two criminals victimized a variety of naïve young women and their financial institutions and bilked the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid and a New York child care program through the guise of a fictitious ”hair show.”

The article details that a woman, who acted as a recruiter, visited shopping malls from New York City to Washington, DC where many young women shopped. She and a male co-conspirator ran a check kiting scheme by telling their unsuspecting victims they would be compensated for participating in a ”hair show” if they would provide their bank account numbers with debit card information including PINs. (This request alone should have raised suspicion, but perhaps these young ladies envisioned themselves signing a modeling contract, who knows?) The criminals declared that the victims’ accounts would be used for deposits and withdrawals of funds. (That part was true, but the young ladies didn’t understand that their bank accounts would be emptied before the financial institutions would realize the scheme.)

Over a period of five years, the woman used $230,000 that she stole from her victims’ accounts to pay for plastic surgery, a car loan and her $2,100 a month rent for a luxury apartment. During this time, she also fraudulently obtained SNAP, Medicaid, child care program benefits and a deferment on about $100,000 in student loans. (She claimed she was living with her father at the time, was unemployed and that family members were paying her bills.) Her addiction to lying also enabled her to submit false reference letters, employment information, W-2 forms, loan and rent applications and bank account statements to back up her need for public assistance. (Could she possibly dig herself any deeper into a fraud hole?)

After a complicated investigation that included piecing together testimony from the victims, financial institution video footage showing the co-conspirators completing transactions and E-Z Pass toll receipts to prove the two had traveled to the targeted areas, the criminals were caught. The 34-year-old woman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and three other counts of bank fraud. She was sentenced to 15 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $202,634.32 plus a special assessment of $400. Her co-conspirator was sentenced to an 80 month sentence in prison for his part in the scheme.

Obviously, this woman saw the ruse as a ”career” and didn’t hesitate to victimize as many people as possible. Her illegal acts caused approximately $600,000 in losses to many financial institutions, not to mention the illegally-obtained funds from multiple government benefits programs. It’s a safe assumption that this woman is about to have one very long bad hair day that will last for the next four years. (She’d better grab a hat and hunker down since she’s not going to be receiving any professional hair services in the near future.)

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled ”Financial Fraud: The Hair Show that Never Was,” posted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on FBI.gov on July 21, 2015.

Tamira Fonville’s job might be described as ”recruiter.” For a time, she profited substantially by enlisting college-age women to participate in a hair show. The problem was, there never was any show, and everything about Fonville’s line of work was a fraud.

She and her partner—both of whom are now in prison—regularly traveled the Interstate 95 corridor from New York to Washington, D.C., visiting shopping malls and other places where young women were known to spend time.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.