Two Texas women plead guilty to conspiracy charges in transnational elder fraud scheme

Published 3:02 pm Friday, August 7, 2020

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TYLER, Texas –  U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox announced that two Texas women have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the Eastern District of Texas.

Pamela Sue Hannan, 67, of Sherman, Texas, and Pamela Sue Jennings, 68, of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to conspiring with foreign co-conspirators to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business on August 6, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge K. Nicole Mitchell.

According to information presented in court, over the course of several years, Hannan and Jennings received funds from romance scam victims and from victims of other fraudulent schemes on behalf of their co-conspirators, who were based outside of the United States.  In order to facilitate the scheme, Hannan and Jennings opened bank accounts in the names of businesses which purported to provide legitimate services.  In reality, Hannan and Jennings used these businesses as fronts to facilitate the money transmitting scheme.  Together, Hannan and Jennings received more than $880,000 from victims of the scheme.  Hannan and Jennings transferred the majority of the funds they received to their co-conspirators’ foreign bank accounts.

Hannan and Jennings were indicted by a federal grand jury on October 16, 2019.

At sentencing, Hannan and Jennings each face a maximum of 5 years in federal prison.  The statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

In October 2017, President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law.  The EAPPA’s purpose is to increase the federal government’s focus on preventing elder abuse and exploitation.  Subsequently, the Department of Justice launched the Elder Justice Initiative (EJI).  Through the EJI, the Department has participated in hundreds of criminal and civil enforcement actions involving misconduct that targeted vulnerable seniors.  This past March, the Department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 400 defendants in a nationwide sweep.  The Department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country.  The EJI website contains useful information, including educational resources about prevalent financial scams so you can guard against them.

Last week, the Eastern District of Texas announced plans to develop a new initiative, in partnership with law enforcement, to increase enforcement efforts to combat transnational elder fraud schemes and their extensive networks of associates and money mules who launder the stolen funds.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps.  Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis.  Reporting is the first step.  Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses.  The hotline is staffed 7 days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. eastern time. English, Spanish and other languages are available.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Sherman Police Department, and the Appleton (Wisconsin) Police Department.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld.