By Jen Kastner
ODESSA- An Odessa woman has pled guilty in connection to a complex and sophisticated multi-million dollar fraud scheme.
On Wednesday morning, Darlene Bishop pled guilty for conspiring to commit wire fraud. In exchange, the government dropped several other charges she was facing of wire fraud and money laundering.
According to an indictment filed in the Midland federal courthouse, Bishop owned and operated several basin businesses, including Ameritex Brokers, Paradize Funding an JonDar Enterprises. She was also a broker for a Michigan-based lending company called Apogee Financial, which provided "leased funds" to clients. Essentially, clients could rent or lease bank accounts in their names, but those accounts would be blocked from access. However, it would appear as though those clients maintained a large amount of capital, which, in turn, could open up doors for big business deals.
Documents state Bishop and Apogee Financial made false "Proof of Funds" (POF) letters on bank stationary stating that accounts existed and contained funds. She reportedly convinced clients to wire tens of thousands of dollars to her in exchange for those letters, which would show they had tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.
For example, in September of 2008 Bishop received $164,000 from a client in exchange for a fraudulent "Proof of Funds" letter showing that client had $100,000,000.
In roughly half a year, she collected almost $6,000,000, none of which was ever reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Some of that money would go up the chain to Apogee Financial, but much of it went straight into Bishop's pocket.
According to a court filing, prosecutors claim she exhibited "deliberate ignorance" in regards to some of the accusations brought against her. In a recorded interview, she was asked about some of the money leases she worked on. Below is a segment of the exchange.
BISHOP: "...I didn't want to know because it wasn't my business. I had nothing to do with that side of the transaction."
PROSECUTION: "You didn't want to know?"
BISHOP: "No. I didn't want to know because it had nothing to do with me."
PROSECUTION: "Well, safer not to know, right?"
BISHOP: "Well, yeah. Obviously."
Bishop is currently released on a bond with special conditions. NewsWest visited her Odessa home on Wednesday afternoon. To our surprise, she answered the door. She was very polite but told us she was legally advised to keep her mouth closed.
She will be sentenced on March 27th.
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