The Marian Story
by Ted L Glines
Marian was convicted, to be sentenced to the Federal Penitentiary for a term of possibly 2 years. Wire Fraud, one count. Not a very long time for a lady who is 50+ years old. Marian is a long-time friend of mine and I was her confidante through every phase of her story, step by step, as her situation unfolded. There are lessons to be learned here.
It all began with an email from a man who called himself "George," from Nigeria. He seemed nice and gentle. George said sweet things. Over several months, George and Marian shared a deepening email relationship where George expressed his growing affection for Marian. Marian told me all about it and I warned her to be careful. But "love" and "careful" do not fit well in the same sentence. Marian fell in love with George and a possible adventure to Nigeria was discussed.
It was not difficult for George to enlist Marian's assistance in several eBay purchases. He told Marian that it would be best if the purchases appeared to be paid for by someone in America, even though the items would be shipped to his address in Nigeria. Marian, being in love, would not heed my cautionary advice. Here is how it went [and this is but one of many such scenarios]:
Jack, from Ohio, put a grand piano up for eBay auction, for a price of $3,500 USD. Very quickly, Jack received an email from George, offering $5,000 for the piano. The money would be coming from an American business friend and Jack would receive the payment within 3 business days. Jack accepted the offer and closed his eBay auction.
Meanwhile, George sent, via next-day-air, a money order to Marian in the amount of $5,500, with the following instructions: Marian was to go immediately and deposit the $5,500 into her bank account, write a check for $5,000 and send the check to Jack. Marian was to keep the remaining $500 for herself, to enjoy in whatever way she chose.
The money was a godsend to Marian.
Marian confided all of this to me and I told her not to touch any part of this deal. She would not listen. She and George were in love, and those $500 business fees felt very good to her. She had the cash in her hand. What could possibly go wrong?
Over the next four days, Marian processed six more transactions for George, for a total of $40,000 in money orders, and each one of these additional deals netted Marian a $500 business fee.
In Ohio, Jack deposited the check for $5,000 and he shipped the auctioned piano to George in Nigeria, who had arranged for shipment. Six additional eBay auctioneers experienced the same happy transactions.
Such money orders have their face amounts credited to the depositor's account. Then the money order is sent to be cleared through the central bank [FDIC guarantor] and it takes about five to seven business days for this clearing process. Every one of the money orders deposited by Marian turned out to be fake. Marian found herself talking to the FBI and facing seven counts of bank fraud, in the total amount of $40,000 USD.
Here is where our criminal justice system goes awry. Marian's apparent crime was bank fraud. Seven fake money orders deposited into her account and withdrawals for the total amount. This primary evidence appeared to be damning. However, the FBI and the prosecutors were informed about George in Nigeria and his masterminding of the entire operation. Therefore, the prosecutors could not prove that Marian intentionally defrauded the bank. Marian was in custody and was very frightened, and she was unaware of the prosecution's problem with finding bank fraud proof. Her whole life was going down the drain. All she saw was a 20-year imprisoned future ahead of her. In this mental framework, with great relief, Marian signed a confession [a plea bargain] to one count of wire fraud, with a sentence of only two years. With a signed confession in hand, the prosecutors do not have to present proof that the defendent has committed the named crime. In such cases, Lady Justice is intentionally blind. Perhaps deaf, as well.
Off in the middle of last night, Marian phoned me, crying, to say that she goes for her sentencing hearing next Tuesday. She was not concerned that she will do Federal prison time for a crime that she did not commit. Wire fraud does not carry a heavy sentence, you see, while bank fraud would have put her away for the next 20 years. She thinks that she got a good deal, after all.
Marian was gullible and naive. She fell for a classic love scam. Marian has a young son named David, who has Down's Syndrome. David cannot understand what has happened. But this has no bearing on Marian's case. One might argue that wire fraud has no bearing on her case, either.
One might think, that if the prosecution could not prove their bank fraud allegations, they should have dropped the case against Marian. It is a known fact that Marian never did commit wire fraud [use of electronic media to perpetrate a fraud]. But, under dire duress, Marian signed a confession, claiming that she had committed one count of wire fraud. This is our criminal justice system; our taxes at work. It stinks and that is why this is being published here and elsewhere.
The perpetrator of the wire fraud, George, remains happily in Nigeria, enjoying the sales proceeds of pianos and many other purchased items. Fraud is illegal in Nigeria but it is big business because the Nigerian government will not prosecute, and there is not an extradition treaty between America and Nigeria.
Oh, and Marian is no longer in love with George.