By MELINDA WILLIAMS
ABINGDON – A Bluefield woman has admitted to stealing nearly $450,000 through a Nigerian wire fraud scheme from 2012-2013.
Audrey Elaine Elrod, 45, of Bluefield, W.Va. pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Abingdon Monday to one count of structuring transactions to avoid reporting requirements and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.
The pleas were offered after Elrod waived her right to be indicted.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Ramseyer, Elrod participated in a wire fraud scheme in which victims sent $446,927 to bank accounts controlled by Elrod between March 2012 and July 2013. Elrod then “structured” the transactions and forwarded the money to Nigeria via wire transfer.
Structuring, also called “smurfing money” is a form of money laundering in which large transactions are broken down into small transactions in order to avoid detection. According to the press release, Elrod structured $411,411 “in an effort to hide her activity form the government.”
Elrod faces up to 20 years on the wire fraud charge, up to 10 years for structuring, and the possibility of another 10 years per count for committing the crimes while on pretrial release.