Sugar Land man sentenced for investment fraud scheme

Published 8:57 am Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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PORTLAND, Maine:  A Texas man was sentenced in federal court today for conspiring to commit wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee announced.

U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock, Jr. sentenced Russell Hearld, 46, of Sugar Land, Texas, to 29 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Final determination of the restitution owed to victims was extended until April. Hearld pleaded guilty on May 24, 2021.

According to court records, in 2017 and 2018, Hearld participated in a scheme to defraud involving investments in Standby Letters of Credit (SBLCs). Investors were promised that they could receive a portion of the value of an SBLC, worth millions of dollars, for a much smaller initial investment. Investors were promised returns equal to many times the amounts of their initial investments in a matter of weeks. They were also promised that their money would remain in the attorney trust account of a co-conspirator—who at the time was a licensed attorney in Florida—until confirmation was received that the SBLC had been issued.

Contrary to these representations, Hearld routinely directed the co-conspirator attorney to withdraw investor funds as soon as they were deposited into the attorney’s trust account. For example, in March 2017, an investor wired $500,000 from his bank account in Maine to the attorney’s trust account in Florida. On the previous day, Hearld had sent the attorney an email, directing the attorney to disburse the investor’s funds. At Hearld’s direction, the attorney wired $200,000 to Hearld’s bank account; $150,000 to the account of the attorney’s law firm; $100,000 to the account of another co-conspirator; and $40,000 to the attorney’s personal account.

While discussing the reasons for his sentence, Judge Woodcock noted that Hearld took the victims’ money for “completely selfish reasons.” He also noted that Hearld owed over $13,000 in past due child support, and said it was “just disgraceful” that Hearld had failed to meet his support obligations despite personally receiving over $2 million in the fraud scheme.

The FBI investigated the case.