GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A Jenison, Michigan woman, Renata Nicole Annese, 39-years-old, received a sentence of imprisonment of 60 months in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on June 8th 2015.
Her sentence followed her guilty plea in January, 2015, to one count of wire fraud arising out of her role in a credit card fraud scheme. “Bringing fraudsters to justice and deterring fraudulent conduct through vigorous prosecution of those who take advantage of others remains an important priority of this office. Ms. Annese selfishly took advantage of her position of trust and now must pay the price,” said U.S. Attorney Miles.
As part of her judgment of conviction, the court ordered Annese to pay restitution in the amount of $872,929.23. Annese was additionally ordered to forfeit her equity interest in her home in Jenison, Michigan, because she used the proceeds of her fraud to make her mortgage payments. Annese paid the victim $30,000.00, representing her equity interest, prior to sentencing. In issuing her sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker noted that her conduct “was not just an isolated fraud, but a long-term pattern.”
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. 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.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation and Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Stella prosecuted the case.