ABINGDON, Virginia – Kathleen Littleford, a Bristol, Virginia woman, who fraudulently opened several bank accounts, deposited counterfeit checks, and shipped large quantities of cash overseas in order to assistant a man with whom she was involved in an online relationship, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to a federal conspiracy charge, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar announced.
Littleford, 76, waived her right to be indicted and pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to execute a scheme to defraud financial institutions to obtain money by false pretenses. At sentencing, Littleford faces up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1 million. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for April 6, 2021.
“Financial fraud cases like this are not victimless crimes,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar said today. “Thousands of Americans are targeted in similar online financial schemes, and when they willingly participate, the fraud is perpetuated. The Western District of Virginia is committed to investigating and prosecuting these kinds of online fraud schemes and we appreciate the good work of our federal and state partners in this case.”
According to court documents, beginning in 2018, Littleford opened a series of bank accounts for the purpose of depositing counterfeit checks and receiving fraudulent transfers of funds from other banking institutions. She did so to assist a man she met online calling himself Frank Peterson. Beginning with his introduction and continuing to the present day, Littleford engaged in an amorous relationship with Peterson, engaging in frequent emailing, text messaging, Facebook messaging, and phone call communications.
“Peterson” made representations to Littleford over the course of their relationship that he made a lot of money in a trade deal in Dubai, that those funds were encumbered by the IRS due to taxes he owed, that he had a lot of money tied up in stocks, and that he needed Littleford’s help receiving funds from banking institutions because he could not transfer money himself, due to the IRS claims on his accounts.
Littleford admitted today that premised on Peterson’s representations and enticed by a reciprocal love and devotion he showed her, Littleford undertook extraordinary measures to comply with Peterson’s fraudulent financial requests. Littleford knew what she was doing was wrong, but knowingly and willfully engaged in the conduct anyway.
Over the course of the scheme, Littleford opened accounts with at least five local banks and fraudulently received move than $190,000 in funds to which she was not entitled.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service and the Russell County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Daniel J. Murphy is prosecuting the case for the United States.