SHERMAN, Texas – According to U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston, the Eastern District of Texas sentenced a Kaufman County man and his girlfriend to federal prison for fraud violations.
Tommy Ray Williams, 44, of Terrell, pleaded guilty on August 10, 2021, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant on March 23, 2022. In addition, Whitney Jane Law, 33, of Point, Texas, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for her role in the scheme and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison by Judge Mazzant.
The court also ordered Williams and Law to pay restitution jointly and severally in the amount of $820,900.00 to their victims, several of whom are elderly.
“The elderly are often the target of fraud, and contractor fraud is a common avenue to take advantage of our greatest generation,” said U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston. “This is where old-fashioned values come into play, watching out for our neighbors who someone just might be taking advantage of them.
Before hiring someone to do work around your home, check out their business reputation. The FBI and United States Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those unethical and immoral persons that have the audacity, through fraud schemes, to take advantage of vulnerable victims, residents of our community, and the elderly.”
“The defendants are scammers that took more than money. They stole their victim’s sense of home. Their schemes demanded payment, destroyed property, and left behind worry and regret,” said Dallas FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno. “We are confident that this investigation had a significant impact on our community, and we will continue to work with our partners to seek justice for victims of fraud.”
According to information presented in court, Williams became involved in a conspiracy. The conspirators would receive referrals for remodeling from a third-party company and then contact the homeowner and arrange for a site inspection. Williams, alone or with others, would travel to the homeowner’s residence, discuss the types of remodeling work required, and provide a bid for services.
On occasion, Williams would have an associate do the preliminary site inspection and bid. Williams would require a large amount of money before the work began and often would require more funds immediately after the work started, blaming this on costs such as materials that had to be purchased. Williams would require that the homeowners write out checks payable to him, an associate, or to one of the business entities that they used.
After the homeowner made their initial payments, individuals would appear at the house and begin demolition work, often destroying critical parts of the home such as plumbing, flooring, sheetrock, walls, and roofing, and would sometimes start installation or construction work. Soon after the work began, however, the work crews would stop coming to the residence, and the renovation work would be left undone. The homeowners would try to contact Williams, who would sometimes respond but eventually stopped responding, and did not return their funds. Throughout the scheme, they defrauded more than 15 homeowners and a credit card processing company of over $800,000. The court charged Law in information with misprision of a felony. The report alleges that she had actual knowledge of a commission of the felony, failed to notify authorities, and took at least one step to conceal the crime.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the victim’s needs and identifying appropriate next steps.
Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis.
Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud, and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed 10:00 am-6:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday-Friday. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.
The FBI Dallas, Frisco Resident Agency investigated the case and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas prosecuted.