In a recent court ruling, a woman from Loma Linda, California has been sentenced to over five years in federal prison for orchestrating a commodities scheme that defrauded victims out of more than $2.6 million. Sharief Deona McDowell, aged 58, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in December 2022. From October 2018 to March 2022, McDowell deceived at least 28 investors by falsely promising to invest their money in commodity futures and options contracts. Instead, she misappropriated the funds for personal use, providing victims with fabricated trade confirmations and account statements to maintain the illusion of investment returns. McDowell’s fraudulent activities violated a 2011 court order, indicating a pattern of deceitful behavior. The severity of her crimes has resulted in a 63-month prison sentence, along with $2,446,093 in restitution.
Loma Linda Woman Sentenced to Over 5 Years in Prison for Commodities Scheme that Defrauded Victims Out of Over $2.6 Million
This article discusses the case of Sharief Deona McDowell, a woman from Loma Linda who has been sentenced to over 5 years in federal prison for her involvement in a commodities scheme. The scheme defrauded more than two dozen victims out of over $2.6 million. The article provides details about the background of the case, including the creation of a fraudulent investment company and the misappropriation of funds. It also covers the legal proceedings, prosecution’s arguments, and the impact on the victims. The article concludes by highlighting the importance of this case in the fight against financial fraud.
Introduction of the case
The case involves Sharief Deona McDowell, a resident of Loma Linda, who has been sentenced to over 5 years in prison for her involvement in a commodities scheme. The scheme caused more than $2.6 million in losses to over two dozen victims.
Overview of the defendant
Sharief Deona McDowell, age 58, operated a purported investment company called Presidential Investments Inc. LLC. She falsely represented to investors that she would invest their money in commodity futures and options contracts. However, she did not trade with the investors’ money and instead misappropriated the funds for her personal use.
Details of the commodities scheme
From October 2018 to March 2022, McDowell defrauded at least 28 investors by falsely representing that she would invest their money in commodity futures and options contracts. She created a fraudulent investment company called Presidential Investments Inc. LLC to carry out her scheme. McDowell operated and controlled this company and directed others to open bank accounts in its name.
The victims of McDowell’s commodities scheme included people inside the United States, as well as individuals in Canada and Poland. In total, McDowell admitted to causing losses to victims of approximately $2,678,768.
Arrest and investigation
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The investigation uncovered the fraudulent activities of McDowell and gathered evidence to build a strong case against her.
Based on the evidence collected during the investigation, McDowell was charged with wire fraud, a federal offense. Wire fraud is the intentional use of electronic communication, such as phone calls or emails, to deceive and defraud others.
In December 2022, McDowell pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. By pleading guilty, she admitted her involvement in the commodities scheme and accepted responsibility for her actions.
On [insert date], McDowell was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison by United States District Judge André Birotte Jr. In addition to the prison sentence, McDowell was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,446,093, which represents the losses suffered by the victims.
Creation of Presidential Investments Inc. LLC
McDowell created and operated a fraudulent investment company called Presidential Investments Inc. LLC. She used this company to deceive investors into believing that their money would be invested in commodity futures and options contracts.
False representations to investors
McDowell made false representations to investors, promising them high returns on their investments. She used these false promises to convince investors to entrust their money to her.
Misappropriation of funds
Instead of using the investors’ money for its intended purpose, McDowell misappropriated the funds for her personal use. She used the funds to finance her lifestyle and cover personal expenses.
Fabricated trade confirmations and account statements
To further deceive investors, McDowell provided them with fabricated trade confirmations and account statements. These documents falsely indicated that their investments were generating returns, when in fact no trading was taking place.
Use of new investor funds to repay earlier investors
McDowell used money provided by new investors to repay earlier investors. This tactic, known as a Ponzi scheme, creates the illusion of profits and sustainability. However, it eventually collapses when there are no more new investors to recruit.
Losses to Victims
Total amount lost by victims
The victims of McDowell’s commodities scheme suffered losses totaling approximately $2,678,768. This amount represents the funds that were invested by the victims and subsequently misappropriated by McDowell.
Domestic and international victims
The victims affected by McDowell’s scheme were not limited to the United States. Individuals from Canada and Poland also fell victim to her fraudulent activities. This demonstrates the global reach and impact of financial fraud schemes.
Violation of Prior Judicial Order
Background of the 2011 lawsuit
In 2011, McDowell was involved in a lawsuit filed against her and 20/20 Trading Company, a precious metals trading business that employed her as a saleswoman. This lawsuit was filed by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Prohibition on fraudulent conduct
As a result of the 2011 lawsuit, McDowell was subject to a prior judicial order that prohibited her from engaging in fraudulent conduct. Despite this order, she went on to create Presidential Investments Inc. LLC and carry out her commodities scheme.
Concealment and circumvention of the court order
McDowell knowingly concealed her fraudulent conduct and went to great lengths to circumvent the court order. She registered the fraudulent investment company under different names and opened bank accounts in the names of other individuals in an attempt to hide her activities.
Intent to commit fraud
According to the prosecution, McDowell had the intention to commit fraud from the very formation of her fraudulent investment company, Presidential Investments. She deliberately misrepresented her company’s activities and led investors to believe that their money would be invested in commodity futures and options contracts.
Concealment of conduct
McDowell actively sought to conceal her fraudulent conduct by registering the business under different names and opening bank accounts in the names of others. This indicates a clear intent to deceive and defraud investors.
Violation of court order
By engaging in fraudulent activities despite being subject to a prior judicial order prohibiting such conduct, McDowell demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the legal system and the rights of others. Her actions were a direct violation of the court’s order.
Involvement of the FBI
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) played a crucial role in investigating McDowell’s commodities scheme. The FBI gathered evidence, interviewed witnesses, and worked closely with the prosecution to build a strong case against McDowell.
Role of Assistant United States Attorney and Trial Attorney
Assistant United States Attorney Cory L. Burleson of the Riverside Branch Office and Trial Attorney Lauren Archer of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Fraud Section were responsible for prosecuting the case against McDowell. These experienced attorneys utilized their expertise in financial fraud cases to present a compelling case against McDowell.
Outcome and sentencing
Sharief Deona McDowell, a resident of Loma Linda, has been sentenced to over 5 years in federal prison for her involvement in a commodities scheme that defrauded victims out of over $2.6 million. The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge André Birotte Jr., who also ordered McDowell to pay restitution to the victims.
Impact on victims
The victims of McDowell’s commodities scheme suffered significant financial losses. Their trust was betrayed, and their money was misappropriated for McDowell’s personal use. This case serves as a reminder of the devastating impact financial fraud can have on individuals and the importance of holding perpetrators accountable.
The sentencing of Sharief Deona McDowell sends a strong message that financial fraud schemes will not be tolerated. The collaboration between law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, and the prosecution in this case highlights the commitment to protecting the public from fraudulent activities. It serves as a warning to potential fraudsters that they will be held accountable for their actions. The victims in this case deserve justice, and the sentencing of McDowell is an important step towards achieving that.