CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld said a recent conviction in a fraud scheme shows the level to which con artists will go to rip off the state’s older residents.
A federal jury found Shelly Anne Leipham, 66, of Las Vegas, guilty of three counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud and three counts of money laundering.
Leipham had convinced an elderly Harrison County woman that she had won a million dollars and the money was on the way. She also convinced the victim to send her some money to secure the prize. Although it may be difficult to figure out the scheme, Ihlenfeld said it was the right victim and Leipham had the right skills for the crime.
“This particular defendant was really good and really shrewd and sophisticated. She knew what she was doing and had done it to a lot of people. Once you go down that criminal route and start doing it consistently, you start to get good at it,” he explained.
She managed to convince the victim to send her checks in increments of $1,000, $1,500 and $2,000 on several occasions. Eventually, the money amounted to nearly $25,000.
“She was persistent. She made a lot of phone calls and it got to the point that she was pestering these people for money and she was successful,” Ihlenfeld said.
Ihlenfeld said it was unfortunately a typical scenario of an older person being duped and not realizing what was going on. However, unlike most cases, this one had a unique twist in a FedEx driver who saw what was happening and reported the situation to his company’s security. Fed Ex in turn alerted West Virginia State Police who became involved and helped resolve the situation.
Ihlenfeld said when law enforcement attended Leipham’s Vegas home, they found a treasure trove of information.
“They found a house worth over half a million dollars, two Corvettes parked in the garage, and a spreadsheet with a list of other victims we were taking advantage of across the country,” a- he declared.
Leipham faces up to 20 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine for each wire fraud and mail fraud account. She also faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 for each money laundering charge.
The federal government is also seeking a financial judgment of $336,402.
Ihlenfeld credited the Fed Ex driver who recognized something was missing. He said that’s what it takes to help protect older people in West Virginia who may not realize what’s going on.
“A Fed Ex driver, bank teller, or anyone else who has observed a West Virginia veteran sending money where it shouldn’t be or withdrawing large sums from their bank account and it doesn’t seem right They should ask questions and not be afraid to inquire or contact law enforcement,” he said.