Susan Ann Villeneuve, 62, of Escalon, California, was sentenced Tuesday on international fraud charges that started in 2014 when sixteen individuals were arrested in South Africa, Canada, California, Wisconsin, New York and Indiana, pursuant to an eight-count federal indictment filed in the Southern District of Mississippi, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain and Raymond Parmer, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans.
Villeneuve was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden to a total of 84 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. She was also ordered to pay $32,857 in restitution for losses to 10 of her counterfeit check victims.
When released from prison, she will serve three years of supervised release. She previously pled guilty to the charges.
The case involved a West African transnational organized crime enterprise involved in numerous complex financial fraud schemes over the internet. This mass marketing fraud included romance scams, re-shipping scams, fraudulent check scams and work-at-home scams, along with bank, financial and credit card account take-overs.
The investigation was initiated in October 2011, by HSI agents in Gulfport after U.S. law enforcement officers were contacted by a female victim in Mississippi who was the victim of a sweetheart scam. The victim received a package in the mail requesting that she reship the merchandise to an address in Pretoria, South Africa. The investigation later revealed that the merchandise was purchased using stolen personal identity information and fraudulent credit card information of persons in the United States. Investigators identified hundreds of victims of this scam in the United States, resulting in the loss of millions of U.S. dollars. Villeneuve was responsible for sending out over $26 million in counterfeit checks to victims across the country by USPS, UPS and FedEx.
The investigation in this case was led by the HSI Gulfport office in partnership with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, South African Police Service, Toronto Police, HSI Cyber Crimes Center, Treasury Executive Office of Asset Forfeiture, HSI Ontario, HSI Charleston, Interpol South Africa, HSI Pretoria and HSI Atlanta. The case in Mississippi was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams, Trial Attorney Conor Mulroe with the DOJ Organized Crime and Gang Section, and Peter Roman, Senior Counsel for the Computer Crimes Intellectual Property Section.