Former Lake Tahoe couple convicted on 58 counts of mail, wire fraud, money laundering
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. and#8212; A federal jury has convicted two former Incline Village residents of 58 combined counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with an Internet scheme in which victims paid for high-end appliances they never received.
Darin French, 39, and Jennifer French, 38, used Incline Village as their base of operations in carrying out their elaborate plan, which eventually defrauded about 80 individuals of a total of approximately $1.5 million, said Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Following a nine-day trial, Darin French, who is currently in federal custody, was convicted Friday of 22 counts of mail fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering, Bogden said. Jennifer French was convicted of 14 counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.
The defendants face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each count. Darin and Jennifer French are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Larry R. Hicks on May 23 in Reno.
The initial indictment was handed down in January 2008, Bogden said.
The convictions stem from a time period beginning in 2003 and stretching into 2004, when the Frenches established a website called and#8220;Look What We Got,and#8221; which advertised high-end kitchen appliances for sale on the website eBay.
The defendants represented themselves as authorized dealers of the various appliance manufacturers and offered the items at discount prices, despite not having contracts with manufacturers or distributors to disseminate their merchandise, Bogden said.
To further the scheme, the Frenches established a false customer feedback record on eBay by selling low-cost merchandise, falsely established multiple user IDs and left positive feedback for their own company in the guise of other legitimate buyers and sellers, Bogden said.
Customers thought they were purchasing products through eBay and afforded that companyand#8217;s consumer protection policies, when in fact, they were off-site purchases.
After providing merchandise to a few initial customers, the defendants ceased to deliver any consumer goods to individuals who had ordered and paid for the appliances.
Customers who inquired after their purchases were informed they would be issued a refund. Instead, the defendants transferred money in large increments out of the LWWG bank account to their personal account and purchased a bevy of luxury items, including a $50,000 boat and a new pickup truck and various stock options.
The credit card companies refunded about $1.2 million to individual victims. Victims who mailed personal checks or cashierand#8217;s checks to the defendants lost about $336,000.
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