ROANOKE, Va. – A former Lynchburg, Virginia attorney, who specialized in elder law and estate planning, was sentenced today to 24 months for wire fraud and making false statements.
Cherie Anne Washburn, 45, engaged in a scheme to defraud and obtain money or property by fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises from elderly victims. Evidence showed that Washburn used the ill-gotten monies to enrich herself, including purchasing real estate and making donations to charities that her boss owned in order to curry favor.
“This defendant took the trust a client places in their attorney to always act in their best interest and betrayed it,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “Many of the victims in this case were older members of our community, making Washburn’s fraud scheme more egregious. I am grateful to Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison and the FBI for their work on this case, and hopeful that the victims have some level of closure today.”
“Ms. Washburn gained the trust of her clients to commit her criminal activity. With this guilty plea, Ms. Washburn has finally accepted responsibility for her actions; and those who were manipulated and suffered losses because of her deceit will see justice served,” Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division said. “FBI Richmond appreciates the partnership of the Lynchburg City Police Department and the Western District of the United States Attorney’s Office during this investigation. If you suspect fraud, please report it to tips.fbi.gov or to your local FBI office.”
“Cherie Washburn’s calculated and predatory behavior was rightfully punished with a 24 month active sentence in a federal prison. Outcomes like this are the result of agencies working together to bring criminal activity like this to light. I am very appreciative for the resources dedicated to this prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI,” said Bethany Harrison, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Lynchburg.
In 2015 and 2016, a senior care management service company referred elderly clients to Washburn for the purpose of obtaining elder-related legal services. Washburn subsequently entered separate Power of Attorney (POA) agreements with each of her victims. Under the terms of these POAs, Washburn was entitled to reasonable compensation and reimbursement for reasonable expenses for services rendered but could not use the personal property of any client to benefit herself.
Despite these agreements and her ethical obligations, Washburn wrote multiple checks and made wire transfers from her victims’ accounts to herself for personal benefit. These checks and transfers ranged in value from $3,025 to $45,000. Additionally, in 2017, Washburn attempted to improperly make herself the beneficiary of two investment accounts held by one of her victims. At the time, these accounts had a combined approximate value of $288,000.
In April 2018, Washburn entered into an agreement to purchase a residence in Lynchburg for approximately $219,000 using monies belonging to another one of her victims and a mortgage lender. In order to complete the home purchase, Washburn submitted a letter to Quicken Loans falsely stating that Washburn was this elderly victim’s great-niece and that this victim provided Washburn with a gift of $40,000 for the purchase of the residence. The next day, Washburn deposited $45,000 from this victim’s SunTrust Account to Washburn’s Wells Fargo account.
In addition to surrendering her license to practice law, Washburn pleaded guilty in July 2021 to two counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement to a mortgage lender.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Lynchburg Police Department investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Baudinet and Daniel P. Bubar, as well as Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison, prosecuted the case.