HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A Huntington woman pleaded guilty today in connection with her role as a money mule in a Nigerian fraud scheme that scammed money from individuals, many of whom were elderly.
According to court documents and statements made during the plea hearing, Patricia Dudding, 69, acted as a money mule for a Nigerian scammer. In May 2018, Dudding met “Lucas” online and although they never actually met in person, Dudding and Lucas communicated frequently by email and text messages. Dudding set up numerous bank accounts in her name at several different banks that she would use to wire and receive fraudulent funds. Dudding received numerous deposits in those bank accounts from individuals located in the United States and abroad. She, and unnamed co-conspirators, would then transfer these funds to bank accounts located in Nigeria. To further the scheme, Dudding admittedly would make false and fraudulent representations to the financial institutions to make it appear that the wire transfers were being sent for legitimate purposes. On April 26, 2019, Dudding sent a wire transfer of $39,000 from her account to an individual in Montana. Upon questioning by a bank employee, Dudding lied about the wire transfer to aid Lucas in completing the transfer of funds to the designated recipient in Montana.
Over the course of the scheme, Dudding withdrew victim funds for her personal benefit. Dudding used the funds to pay her utility bills, satellite television service, groceries, drug store purchases, gasoline purchases, department store purchases, restaurants and took numerous cash withdrawals.
Dudding pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting an unlawful monetary transaction and faces up to 10 years in prison when she is sentenced on April 25, 2022. As part of her plea agreement, Dudding has agreed to pay $1,788,589.24 in restitution.
United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the United States Secret Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) – Office of Inspector General and the South Charleston Police Department conducted the investigation.
United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Kathleen Robeson is prosecuting the case.
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.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:22-cr-00001.