GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Renata Nicole Annese, 39-years-old, of Jenison, Michigan, pled guilty on June 29 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan to one count of wire fraud as detailed in an indictment returned on November 12, 2014, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles announced on Thursday, January 29th, 2015.
Annese agreed that she will pay restitution of approximately $872,000.00 and that she will forfeit her equity interest in her personal residence in Jenison, Michigan, because she used the fraud to make her mortgage payments.
“Deterring fraudulent conduct through vigorous prosecution of those who take advantage of others remains an important priority of this office. The repeated use of interstate wire transmissions to steal nearly a million dollars and to contribute to this victim’s decision that he had to sell his business makes this case especially appropriate for federal prosecution,” said U.S. Attorney Miles.
From October 2006 until April 2013, Annese used interstate wires to defraud the former owner of the Sleep Inn hotel in Allendale, Michigan, of nearly a million dollars.
Annese did so by regularly accessing the Internet so that she could edit data related to the hotel’s credit card sales. Annese then inserted her own personal credit card and bank debit card numbers on the payment side of many of those transactions. This caused the hotel customers’ cards to be charged, but directed the customers’ banks to send the payments to Annese’s credit and debit cards, instead of to the hotel’s bank account.
The defendant concealed her fraud by pairing her credit or bank debit card numbers with names and charge amounts actually associated with real hotel customers. This made it appear as if those customers were receiving a credit back to their cards,
when in reality Annese was receiving the payments.
The former owner of Sleep Inn sold the hotel in 2013 because of its struggling financial performance and did not learn of Annese’s fraud until shortly after the sale.
“Defendant Annese repeatedly used the Internet to siphon funds intended for her employer and divert them illegally to her own bank accounts,” stated Paul M. Abbate, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office. “As reflected in this case, there are always very real victims on the other end of financial fraud crimes. The FBI remains committed to deterring this type of conduct and bringing justice to those who perpetrate fraudulent financial schemes in violation of federal law.”
Annese will be sentenced on May 18, 2015, at which time she will face up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.00.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting the investigation and Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Stella is prosecuting the case.