A couple from Ludlow, Mass., is headed to prison after pleading guilty in federal court to mail fraud, identity theft, and tax evasion.
Joanne Murray, 54, and James Murray, 53, each pleaded guilty to with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and tax evasion.
According to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, the Murrays, along with others, took part in a scheme to defraud Freddie Mac. Joanne worked at a Springfield, Mass., real estate brokerage, which managed hundreds of foreclosed properties owned by Freddie Mac.
“In the scheme, Joanne, James, and others agreed to submit fraudulent ‘reimbursements’ by the brokerage to Freddie Mac for James’ company, amounting to approximately $1,372,099 in repair, improvement, and maintenance projects,” the US Attorney’s Office said. “After Freddie Mac paid the purported reimbursements, the brokerage paid James approximately 90% of those amounts and retained an approximate 10% skim. Joanne ensured that James’s company would win these projects by submitting fraudulent bids to Freddie Mac by purported competitors. To avoid detection by Freddie Mac, Joanne submitted bids in a friend’s name, without his knowledge, instead of James’ company, for work that was ultimately performed by James’ company. The Murrays also agreed to submit similar fraudulent requests for reimbursement of minor cleaning projects for James’ relative, amounting to approximately $68,960, in exchange for the brokerage’s retention of approximately 10% of the relative’s payments.”
Aside from fraud, the Murrays also dodged payment on outstanding federal tax debts from 2012 to 2014. They cashed various checks from the brokerage amounting to $461,030. In 2014, the Murrays jointly filed an individual federal income tax return that under-reported their gross receipts by $151,178.
The couple was sentenced five years in prison, up to five years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy charge. The aggravated identity theft charges require a mandatory two-year sentence consecutive to any other term of imprisonment.