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The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said that Sally Berry, age 62 of Steelton, has been charged in a criminal information on December 13, 2018, with wire fraud for defrauding a 78 year-old man out of $86,500.
In federal cases a criminal information often signals the defendant has entered into a plea agreement with a US Attorney.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, the criminal information alleges that Berry defrauded the victim by falsely representing to him that Berry was going to receive a $750,000 settlement from the Western Union, fraud victim reimbursement fund and by persuading him to give her a series of eight loans between September 2017 and July 2018 totaling $97,500 to pay attorney fees and travel expenses incurred in connection with her settlement.
In January of 2017, Western Union entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania wherein Western Union forfeited the sum of $586 million to the government. Under the terms of the Agreement the government made the $586 million available to reimburse victims of mass marketing, consumer fraud schemes who were fraudulently induced into sending Western Union money transfers between 2004 and 2017.
To process the claims submitted by the thousands of fraud victims, the Department of Justice retained the services of Gilardi and Company, LLC (Gilardi), to serve as the forfeiture fund’s petition for remission administrator.
On or about May 30, 2018, Berry submitted a claim to Gilardi for reimbursement of alleged fraud losses totaling $25,084. However, no other claim for any additional amount was submitted by Berry.
The Information alleges that beginning in September 2017, Berry repeatedly assured the victim she was going to receive $750,000 from the Western Union fund and that her claim had been approved by the Department of Justice. Berry allegedly asked the victim to lend her money so she could pay various legal fees and travel expenses incurred in connection with her claim.
On September 28, 2018, the victim provided Berry the first loan in the amount of $25,000. According to the Information, the victim financed the loan by borrowing $25,000 from a credit union.
The Information further alleges that in order to induce the victim into making additional loans, Berry gave the victim a Western Union Petition for Remission form bearing the handwritten note: “Proof of Western Union Settlement,” and another Western Union Remission document bearing the handwritten note: “Look at this – My claim was submitted and accepted 5/31 – Just a matter of time.”
Berry allegedly provided the victim assurance her loans would be repaid in the event she died by giving the victim a Nomination of Beneficiaries form from the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System. The document, signed by Berry, bore the handwritten note: “Mr. W. will receive the amount of $150,000.”
The Information also alleges Berry defrauded the victim by making six cash, lulling loan payments totaling $11,000 between September 2017 and May 2018.
According to the Information, in July 2018, Berry asked the victim for an additional $7,500 so she could ostensibly travel to Kentucky and Colorado to finalize her Western Union claim. Berry allegedly told the victim the $7,500 would allow her attorney to file additional paperwork so she could receive up to $900,000 from Western Union. Because by this time the victim had depleted all of his life savings, the victim borrowed $15,000 from a bank and gave Berry a check for $7,500.
Berry was arrested by U.S. Postal Inspectors in connection with the charges on November 15, 2018, and was subsequently ordered detained by Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson. Following a preliminary hearing before Judge Carlson on November 27, 2018, Berry was held over on the charges pending further proceedings.