A woman who participated in a "secret shopper" scheme may face up to twenty years in prison if convicted of fraud.
Gloria Denise Ford, 45, pleaded guilty to mail fraud in a federal court in Rockford on Friday. She admitted to participating in a scheme from January 2011 to November 2011 in which people applied to work-at-home advertisements to become a secret shopper or payment processor.
According to the plea agreement, victims would receive a letter that would instruct them to send an email to an address contained in the letter. They would also receive at least one counterfeit negotiable instrument, such as a counterfeit money order. The victims were then instructed to deposit the counterfeit money order into their banks, withdraw a certain amount, retain a certain amount as payment for their services, and then transfer the proceeds via Western Union. The victims would then report their experience to the email address listed in the letter, believing they were working as a secret shopper. The scheme's participants would then receive the funds sent via Western Union before the victims realized the money orders were counterfeit.
Between January 2011 and November 2011, Ford received ten packages from Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and France that contained counterfeit money orders ranging from $800 to $1,000 each. The money orders appeared to be from the United Postal Service, Safeway, Navy Federal Credit Union, U.S. New Mexico Federal Credit Union, and TruWest Credit Union. Ford also received instructions via email with attachments including the secret shopper letter and FedEx or Postal Express mailing labels. Ford mailed over $1,000,000 in counterfeit money orders to victims around the country and received at least $12,000 for her role in the scheme.
Ford could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or an alternate fine totaling twice the loss or twice the gain, whichever is greater, a three year period of supervised release after her imprisonment, and restitution.
Her sentencing has been scheduled for October 9.
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