Irish Travelers make plea deals in racketeering case

All 22 defendants in a federal racketeering involving Irish Travelers from Murphy Village have agreed to plea deals.

 

The agreement calls for them to plead guilty to one count of “conspiracy to racketeer,” which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The plea agreements were filed with the US District Court in Columbia on Thursday.

All 22 defendants in a federal racketeering case involving Irish Travelers from Murphy Village have agreed to plea deals, according to court documents.

The agreements call for them to plead guilty to one count of “conspiracy to racketeer,” which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The plea agreements were filed with the US District Court in Columbia on Thursday. A date for sentencing had not been set.

The agreements require the defendants to forfeit any property seized by the government, including cars and houses, and to make restitution to “each and every identifiable victim who may have been harmed by the scheme or pattern of criminal activity.” Defendants are also required to help the government identify “all victims.”

The original indictment, issued in August, alleged that defendants participated in a number of fraudulent schemes to obtain life insurance benefits, food stamps and Medicaid funds, and committed fraud involving automobile financing.

All 22 were charged with RICO conspiracy. Some also were charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, structuring monetary transactions to evade reporting requirements, or interstate transportation of stolen items.

Charges other than the one count of conspiracy will be dismissed if defendants abide by the terms of the agreements.

The defendants were accused of fraudulently obtaining food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by submitting false information about their income and employment on food stamp applications and re-certifications.

They also were accused of obtaining health benefits under Medicaid by submitting false information on applications, and of doing the same to get loans to buy vehicles and sometimes rolling back the odometers of vehicles they traded or sold, according to the indictment.

Similarly, false information was used to obtain health and life insurance policies, whose purchases also constituted money-laundering because they were paid for with money obtained through other criminal acts, the indictment says.

Reach James Folker at (706) 823-3338 or james.folker@augustachronicle.com

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