The U.S. Attorney for Nevada today charged six people, including a Gig Harbor woman, in a scheme that allegedly bilked would-be investors out of $3 million over a 10-year period.
Constance C. Fenton, 68, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of engaging in money transactions in criminally derived property and nine counts of money laundering.
Also indicted is Clark County, Nevada, District Court Judge Steven E. Jones, who allegedly used his office to lend credibility to the scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas reported in a news release. The rest of the defendants live in Nevada or Oregon.
Federal prosecutors contend the ring from 2002 until October 2012 ”induced individuals to loan them money under the guise that they would be re-paid quickly and would earn high rates of interest,” according to the news release. The pitch: One of the co-conspirators worked for the federal government and had access to public officials and “secret government programs,” federal prosecutors said. The defendants also told their marks the group “had property rights in Arizona and Nevada, including water rights in northern Arizona, land rights on the Las Vegas strip and access to World War I bonds, but that short-term loans or cash investments were need to secure the rights,” federal prosecutors said.
The defendants are accused of soliciting victims by telephone, mail and over the internet.
Prosecutors said Jones vouched for the scheme and used his office to delay legal proceedings against one of the co-conspirators. The judge “received cash proceeds from the scheme at the courthouse where he presided over cases,” the news release states. Prosecutors said Jones and another conspirator laundered more than $250,000 through a bank account they controlled.
It was not clear this afternoon what specific role Fenton played in the scheme or whether she’d been arrested.
UPDATE: Fenton was arrested and made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. She was released pending arraignment in Las Vegas sometime soon.