A woman who was living the high life after running a fraudulent loan scam will spend more than 15 years inside a federal prison.
Keisha Williams, 43, who was arrested by the FBI in February last year, pleaded guilty to 14 fraud-related charges after 20 people testified against her.
She admitted the $7.5 million she scammed was used on luxury holidays, cars, restaurants and in high-end shops and came from a fraudulent healthcare software scheme that fleeced more than 50 people out of their savings.
According to police, she spent about $2.7 million on luxury travel and accessories from Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel.
The woman, from Virginia, US, claimed she had purchased Austrian software that would allow doctors to remotely examine and talk with patients and needed cash to pay taxes and fees on the product. She even managed to convince a successful California businessman, Christian D’Andrade, to partner with her to raise $5.58 million, including almost $2 million of his own money, Washington Post reported.
She had explained “she needed emergency funding to get software that she had purchased out of ‘escrow’ in Austria”, officials said.
As victims gave up their life savings, which included a 71-year-old cancer survivor who is now more than $350,000 out of pocket, a special needs teacher and recent widow, Williams was living the high life.
She used millions from the scam to stay at the Ritz-Carlton in the Bahamas, the Cavalieri in Rome, went on a trip to Disney Land and blew about $400,000 on trip to Jamaica for her girlfriend’s birthday.
When she was in Bora Bora she reportedly spotted actor Tracy Morgan but bragged, “I have the biggest villa on the island”.
“The way in which you spent this money … is appalling,” Judge Leonie Brinkema told her before imposing a 15-and-a-half year sentence in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. “It was one of the worst (cases) I’ve seen.”
According to FBI, investors were promised a “megabucks investment opportunity” with huge returns.
The highly successful businessman who got sucked into her four-year scam, D’Andrade, lost his business, his two houses, car and all his savings, according to court papers, along with the savings of his girlfriend, ex-wife and a business mentee.
The 70-year-old admitted lying to several victims himself about where the money was going and how quickly it would be paid back, while believing Williams would make good on her promises. He served a probationary sentence at the time, Fox News reported.
It is understood Williams never fully purchased the healthcare software, spending less than $420,000 of the total $7.5 million she had received from investors.
Most of the rest she spent on herself and her girlfriend, according to court records.
“This is a being without a heart or soul; no human can do what she has knowingly done to so many of us,” one victim wrote in a letter to the court.
Williams, who has degrees in electrical engineering and law, initially came under investigation after complaints that her consulting firm charged small businesses advance fees for work she never performed. Prosecutors say they also found evidence she was involved in mortgage fraud.
Washington Post reported that when in court she offered little explanation, dwelling instead on the education and career she believed made her a good candidate for rehabilitation over punishment.
“I believe I am a good person who made some bad choices,” she said. Responding to a victim who asked how she could sleep at night, she quoted a Bible verse from 2 Corinthians, adding, “I’m a new person.”
When she got arrested last year, her longtime neighbours could not believe the allegations.
“She kind of kept to herself. She didn’t really do a lot of interacting,” Mary Smith told Fox News. “We have been neighbours for almost 12 years.”
Neighbour Jessica White said: “I have only had one interaction in probably eight years ago and she was very kind.
“I would have never, never thought.”