SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Homosassa, Florida man pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in a $223,000 money-laundering conspiracy, which was part of an email hacking scheme that targeted a program at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., as well as victims in Tennessee and Idaho.
Franklin D. Huggins, 54, pleaded guilty before U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Huggins admitted that he participated in a money-laundering conspiracy related to a $223,427 wire fraud scheme from Jan. 1, 2017, to Jan. 28, 2019. Huggins’s co-conspirators targeted Fort Leonard Wood and two businesses through a business email compromise scheme. In a business email compromise scheme, conspirators hack into a business email account, then send an email from what appears to be an employee of the business, instructing that money be sent to certain bank accounts.
Conspirators sent emails to individuals associated with businesses in an attempt to gain unlawful access to business email accounts. After hacking the email accounts, conspirators then utilized the business email accounts to portray themselves as those businesses and individuals. Under such assumed identities, conspirators engaged in what seemed to be normal financial transactions with other victim businesses, individuals, and entities, requesting money for certain purposes. These victims, believing they were conducting business with the real individuals, sent money to the conspirators based upon those false representations.
Huggins received the victims’ money in one of his own bank accounts. He withdrew cash, used the proceeds for his own personal benefit, and transferred the money to other individuals or entities, for purposes other than what was represented to the victims.
Huggins and his co-conspirators stole $164,568 from the Fort Leonard Wood branch of the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. Conspirators hacked the email of an Illinois business that provided charter bus services then sent emails to Fort Leonard Wood purportedly from the business, which provides transportation for military service members during the winter holidays – including round-trip bus transportation to airports for military service members to be with their families during the holidays.
Huggins and his co-conspirators also stole $9,000 from an individual in Tennessee, and stole $49,859 from a business in Idaho.
Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Huggins must forfeit to the government a money judgment of $223,427.
By pleading guilty today, Huggins admitted that he conducted a financial transaction in excess of $10,000 in value, through a financial institution, that involved the proceeds of wire fraud, knowing that the transaction was designed in part to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the proceeds. Huggins admitted that, while conducting the financial transaction, he knew the proceeds were of some form of unlawful activity.
Under federal statutes, Huggins is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
This case is part of the Department of Justice’s Money Mule Initiative. The Money Mule Initiative targets networks of individuals through which international fraudsters obtain proceeds of fraud schemes. These individuals, sometimes referred to as money mules, receive money from fraud victims and forward the illicit funds, often to overseas perpetrators. By receiving and transferring illicit funds, money mules facilitate a wide range of fraud schemes, including those that often predominately impact older Americans — like romance scams and lottery fraud — and those that target companies through business email compromise schemes.
More information about money mules is available at https://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch/money-mule-initiative.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey Clark. It was investigated by the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Citrus County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office, and the Belle Meade, Tenn., Police Department.