Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 16, 2014

Mercer County woman pleads guilty to ‘Nigerian wire fraud scheme’

Bill Archer
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Law enforcement officers from Russell County, Va., Bluefield, Va., and Bluefield assisted the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Marshal Service in the investigation of a Bluefield woman who pleaded guilty earlier this week at U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia to a two-count federal information charging her with conspiracy and wire fraud.

Audrey Elaine Elrod, 45, of Bluefield, appeared before U.S. District Judge James P. Jones of the Western District of Virginia and pleaded guilty to one count of structuring transactions to avoid reporting requirements and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charges stem from a “Nigerian wire fraud scheme,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.

“Ms. Elrod and her co-conspirators stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in an elaborate fraud scheme,” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy, of the Western District of Virginia was quoted as stating in a press release. “This U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of financial fraud and bring those who commit such fraud to justice.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Ramseyer represented the government in the case, according to the press release. Ramseyer presented evidence in court that indicated Elrod received money from victims, “structured the transactions and forwarded most of the proceeds to Nigeria via wire transfer,” according to the press release.

“Between March 2012 and July 2013, Elrod received $446,927 in wire transfers into bank accounts she controlled,” according to the press release. “Between July 2012 to July 2013, Elrod structured $411,411 in cash transactions in an effort to hide her activity from the government.”

Spokespersons for both the IRS Criminal Investigations and U.S. Attorney’s office were not immediately available for comment. a local detective who assisted with the investigation referred requests for information to the U.S. Attorney.

Elrod faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on the wire fraud charge, 10 years on the structuring charge and a possible 10 more years per count for committing the crimes while on pre-trial release.