A 48-year-old Port Arthur, Texas man has pleaded guilty to federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston today.
Larry Lee Stephenson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn.
According to information presented in court, on Sep. 30, 2016, federal and local agents arrested three individuals in the Houston area involved in a nationwide six-year scheme which defrauded the relatives of federal inmates by falsely representing that they could obtain reductions in their relatives’ sentences in exchange for the payment of cash and wire transfers of funds. The payments were falsely represented to be for the payment for a network of confidential informants who would make undercover drug transactions under the direction of the courts and prosecutors which would allow the incarcerated inmates to ask the court for reductions of sentences for providing substantial assistance to the government under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. In reality the indictment alleges the money was spent for the personal benefit of the defendants and there was never any network of informants or undercover transactions. Federal inmates do not have to pay for substantial assistance motions for reductions of sentences which normally only require information to be provided by such inmates against co-defendants as well as trial testimony. Separate indictments in the scheme were handed down by federal grand juries in the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division, and the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division. The Texas indictment alleged a wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud involving six individuals: Alvin James Warrick, 41, Colitha Patrice Bush, 36, Ronald B. Shepherd, 33, and Alvin Turner, 54, all of Houston, Texas; and Larry Lee Stephenson, 48, of Port Arthur, Texas. Additionally, Alvin James Warrick, Colitha Patrice Bush, Ronald B. Shepherd were also the subject of the indictment from the Southern District of Florida also alleging a wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The indictments allege different victims in and around each district. The scheme resulted in losses to inmate families of over four million dollars. Turner was arrested in October and Stephenson surrendered in October. One defendant remains at large and is being sought by authorities. Warrick is detained pending trial in Miami. Bush, Shepherd, Turner, and Stephenson are released on conditions.
Under federal statutes, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison at sentencing. The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General, in Miami and New York region; U.S. Marshals Service; Houston Police Department- Major Offenders Division; United States Attorney’s Offices in the Eastern District of Texas, Southern District of Florida, and Eastern District of New York. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert L. Rawls.