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Coventry woman sentenced for mail fraud

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, April 24, 2009
By Katie Mulvaney

Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Coventry woman to a year in prison for

her role in a Nigerian mail-fraud scheme intended to target more than 900 victims.

Nancy Alexander, 67, wept as Chief U.S. Judge Mary M. Lisi gave her a sentence of one year

plus one day, and placed her under three years of supervision following her release. She was

ordered to undergo mental-health counseling, pay $9,420 in restitution, and was forbidden to

use the Internet without court approval upon her release.

“There’s no question in my mind that this defendant clearly understood what she was being

asked to do,” Lisi said in U.S. District Court. Alexander, she said, agreed to engage in a

scheme with an out-of-country mastermind in exchange for the promise of a $600 monthly

paycheck.

Using a cane and appearing feeble, Alexander apologized to her family. She cast herself as

the victim of a conniving scam artist who preyed on the vulnerable over the Internet. Her

lawyer, Mary S. McElroy, said Alexander was plagued by illness, financial troubles and

depression after her son’s death at the time the Nigerian wooed her into a false romance and

subsequent scam online.

“I didn’t realize how many people I hurt,” Alexander said, crying. “I couldn’t hurt anybody.

It’s just not in me.”

Alexander, of Victory Highway, had faced 37 to 46 months in prison under federal guidelines.

Prosecutor Lee H. Vilker had asked for 37 months, saying such schemes were increasingly a

blight on society and that the sentence should serve to deter other Americans from being

enlisted in similar conspiracies. Alexander sought one-day imprisonment and home confinement

with electronic monitoring in light of her age and health issues, including diabetes,

arthritis, depression and fibromyalgia.

Alexander in November pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud involving about $1.6 million

in counterfeit checks and money orders, admitting she made fraudulent checks and forwarded

others that had been shipped to her from Nigeria.

According to a Secret Service affidavit, agents intercepted a parcel last April addressed to

Alexander that contained 119 counterfeit checks and money orders, prosecutors said. The

package originated in Nigeria and had been shipped through France.

Agents found that Alexander and her accomplices approached victims and intended victims in

several ways. For instance, they contacted one after she posted a résumé online; another had

advertised a pool heater for sale in a local newspaper; and a third was seeking a work-from

-home job. All were asked to cash checks sent to them of various amounts. They were

instructed to keep some of the money and wire the balance to other accounts, prosecutors

said.

All the checks turned out to be counterfeit and victims lost money they had wired back —

ranging from $2,000 to $5,000. Other targets either waited for the checks to clear — which

they did not — or did not respond at all. In all, Alexander successfully scammed $9,420,

though she received none of that money before her arrest last year, according court

statements.

Lisi referenced Alexander’s two-decade criminal history in sentencing her. Previous charges,

for which Alexander always received probation, included passing bad checks and most recently

stealing a coworker’s personal information and then using her credit card, Lisi said.

It is clear that leniency by previous judges did not deter her from engaging in the Nigerian

fraud and lending it the legitimacy of an American address, Lisi said. “She did it with her

eyes wide open.”

Alexander is scheduled to surrender voluntarily May 14.

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April 29, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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