CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A Huntington woman has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with laundering funds from an international fraud scheme, according to United States Attorney Mike Stuart. The fraud scheme scammed money from individuals, many of whom were elderly, from several states and countries.
Patricia Dudding, 68, of Huntington was indicted on 12 counts and charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, bank fraud and unlawful money transactions, according to Stuart’s office. Dudding acted as a money mule for a Nigerian scammer, “Lucas,” who she met online in early spring 2018 and communicated frequently with by email and text message, according to the indictment.
“Egregious. This is the largest elder fraud scheme ever prosecuted in the history of West Virginia and our work continues. This case is significant on a national and international level,” Stuart said.
Dudding allegedly set up multiple bank accounts in her name at more than 10 different banks that she would use to wire and receive fraudulent funds, and received numerous deposits from more than two dozen people across the US and abroad. According to the indictment, she and unnamed co-conspirators would then transfer these funds to bank accounts in Nigeria.
The indictment alleges Dudding used over $100,000 of victim funds for her personal benefit, and that her total cash withdrawals were nearly $42,000. The total loss from the scheme is around $3.2 million, more than $3 million of this was allegedly transferred or deposited into Dudding’s accounts.
Stuart said money mules play critical roles in facilitating fraudulent schemes. The money mules transfer illegally acquired money on behalf of another party.
If convicted on all counts, Dudding faces up to 20 years in prison, according to Stuart’s office. The investigation is still ongoing and could result in additional charges in the future.
Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act into law, the Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors. In particular, in March 2019, the department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 260 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep, according to Stuart’s office. The department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act.
More information about the department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which can be reached at https://www.ovc.gov.