Investment fraud conviction resulting from online business venture leads to 8 year sentence for woman in Johnson County
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2010
Wanda Robertson also ordered to repay more than $170,000 to victims of her scheme, many found through Craig’s List
(Indianapolis) – A joint investigation involving Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita’s Prosecution Assistance Unit (PAU) has resulted in a securities fraud conviction in Johnson County. Wanda Robertson pleaded guilty this week to three Class-C felony violations of the Indiana Securities Act. She was sentenced to four years executed in prison and four years suspended. The conviction comes after an investigation conducted by the Indiana State Police with assistance from the PAU leading to charges filed last year by Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper. Robertson has been held in the Johnson County jail on a $72,000 bond since March.
“This case is an egregious example of an unfortunate and dangerous trend – people using the Internet to perpetuate investment fraud,” said Secretary Rokita. “When a perpetrator uses the Internet, he or she is suddenly able to reach potential victims from all over the world. It is vital for Hoosiers to research investment opportunities thoroughly, especially those offered online.”
According to the charges, Robertson solicited investors through the web site Craig’s List, claiming to offer a business opportunity where individuals would be given ownership in her company, Real Estate Paper Chase, but have no control over the operations of the business. Robertson’s scheme involved using investors’ credit histories to apply for loans and credit cards on behalf of the business. Robertson promised to pay any debt incurred under the investor’s name and provide a 4 percent return on their investment. She also offered opportunities to become officers in “shelf corporations” and to then invest in real estate through these companies and make even more money.
Robertson pleaded guilty to Securities Fraud and two other charges involving her failure to properly register with the Indiana Secretary of State before doing business in Indiana – all Class C felonies. In addition to her prison sentence, she was also ordered to repay all three victims, an amount totaling over $170,000. The plea agreement and initial probable cause affidavit are attached to this release.
Cooper appointed former Johnson County Deputy Prosecutor Stephanie Caraway, now Senior Attorney for Secretary Rokita’s Prosecution Assistance Unit, as Special Deputy Prosecutor to handle the case against Robertson with assistance from Cooper and his staff.
“I greatly appreciate the Secretary of State’s willingness to lend the weight and expertise of his office in this type of case,” said Cooper. “We do not see a lot of securities fraud cases in Johnson County, so having access to Ms. Caraway’s expertise in this area of prosecution saves my office countless hours of time and funds.”
For more information on how to avoid becoming a victim of investment fraud, visit www.IndianaInvestmentWatch.com.
About the Prosecution Assistance Unit
In 2004, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita created the Prosecution Assistance Unit within the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s Office. Its sole purpose is to assist police and prosecutors in investigating and prosecuting criminal violations of the Indiana Securities Act and the Indiana Loan Brokers Act. The investigators and attorneys in the unit collectively have over 72 years of experience in investigating and prosecuting criminals. Since its inception, the Unit has helped to convict 44 criminals in state and federal courts across Indiana in cases that have resulted in over 335 years of time sentenced. In addition, courts have ordered defendants to pay over $29 million in restitution to crime victims.
Media Contact: Jim Gavin, 317.233.8655, firstname.lastname@example.org