Friends and relatives of at least 22 federal prisoners in Miami-Dade County and elsewhere paid $4.4 million to a trio of con artists who promised sentence reductions in exchange for fees. Alvin James Warrick, 40, Colitha Patrice Bush, 36, and Ronald Bennett Shepherd, 32, pleaded guilty in March 2017 to fraud conspiracy charges. On June 29, 2017, Warrick was sentenced to 235 months in federal prison, while Bush received a 96-month term. Shepherd, who only had a supporting role in the scheme, received just 28 months.
The victims of the scam were told they would receive services to help them obtain reduced sentences for providing “substantial assistance” to the government as set forth in Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. As part of the scheme, Warrick and Bush, using aliases such as “Peter Candlewood,” “Diane Lane” and “Diane Rice,” provided fake invoices and forged documents that purported to show agreements between various U.S. Attorneys’ offices and their company, Private Services, which appeared to benefit fictitious prisoners.
Instead, the three defendants accepted payments from prisoners’ families and used the funds for gambling and to purchase luxury cars and vacations. Not a single prisoner who sent them money provided any useful information or received a shorter sentence during the course of the scheme, which ran from 2009 to 2016.
Federal prisoners take note: Neither the government nor the court system charges a fee for requesting a Rule 35 sentence reduction.
Sources: www.miamiherald.com, www.justice.gov, www.orangeleader.com
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