Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A Bluefield woman, who prosecutors say was part of a Nigerian wire fraud scheme, has been sentenced to 52 months in prison in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon.
Audrey Elaine Elrod, 47, of Bluefield, W.Va., was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 52 months, according to a press release from Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer. Elrod previously pled guilty to an Information charging her with one count of structuring transactions to avoid reporting requirements and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
At sentencing, Ramseyer said Elrod testified that an individual who identified himself as “Duke McGregor” befriended her on Facebook. She developed a romantic attachment with “Duke” through instant messaging, Ramseyer said. “Duke” eventually asked her to send money to his friend, “Sinclair,” in Nigeria, according to the press release. Over time, “Duke” caused hundreds of thousands of dollars to be sent to accounts controlled by Elrod, Ramseyer said. These amounts were unwittingly sent to Elrod by victims of the scheme. Ramseyer said Elrod then structured the money out of her accounts, keeping the amounts below $10,000 to avoid the filing of Currency Transaction Reports with the IRS. She then sent the money by Western Union and MoneyGram to accounts in Nigeria.
Ramseyer said Elrod played an important role in the scheme because using her accounts disguised from the victims the fact that their money was ending up in Nigeria. Between March 2012 and July 2013, Elrod received $446,927.59 in wire transfers into bank accounts she controlled. Between July 2012 and July 2013, Elrod structured $411,411.20 in cash transactions in an effort to hide her activity from the government, Ramseyer said.
Elrod was arrested on federal charges on April 15, 2013. After the court released her on bond, Elrod continued to receive and send money as part of the fraud scheme, the press release said. She then absconded to Charlotte, N.C., and continued the scheme there, according to Ramseyer. On August 29, 2013, she was apprehended in Charlotte and has remained in federal custody ever since.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, the United States Marshal Service, the Russell County Sheriff’s Office, the Bluefield Virginia Police Department, and the Bluefield West Virginia Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer prosecuted the case for the United States.