LEBANON, Ore. (KOIN) — Rodney Gregory of Lebanon admits he was a “money mule” in the middle of an international scheme to trick people into believing they found love online and then scammed them for money.
Prosecutors wanted him to spend a year in jail, but instead, a Federal judge in Eugene gave him three years probation and ordered to pay back nearly $200,000.
Federal agents first confronted Gregory two years ago, asking him why he had incorporated companies and opened business bank accounts in the United State to receive wire transfers of money from victims.
Agents also wanted to know why Gregory would then wire the money overseas. According to court documents, Gregory — who turned 65 in April — told them he did it because of promises of love from a woman he met on an online dating website. He said she told him how to set up the bank accounts and companies.
In May 2017, Gregory admitted to agents that his actions could “constitute wire fraud and money laundering.”
Court documents say Gregory did not stop after meeting with the federal agents and helped defraud seven more victims out of $184,230.69. They say he opened more U.S. banks using fraudulent information and continued to send money to other countries, including the Agricultural Bank of China. Agents say the money went to “unknown co-conspirators” who pretended to be military members or civilians working overseas who said they needed money to pay taxes and travel expenses.
According to court records filed by the U.S. Attorney for Oregon, “Foreign scammers depend on U.S.-based money mules like Mr. Gregory. They need Mr. Gregory to move stolen money, averting the scrutiny of financial institutions and masking the true identity of the scammers. Money mules are contributing to the proliferation of these criminal enterprises, threatening the security of everyone who has an online presence, particularly the elderly.”
The court documents say some mules know what they are doing is illegal, and that may have applied to Gregory before he was confronted by agents.
They wrote that banks would shut down his accounts due to suspicious activity, but Gregory would open new accounts at different banks.
“Either Mr. Gregory knew what he was doing was fraudulent, and he was complicit, or he ignored obvious red flags about his conduct,” wrote Gavin Bruce, Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Gregory originally faced 3 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, but in a plea bargain, he agreed to one count of each.
KOIN 6 left a message for Gregory. In February 2018, KOIN 6 reached him by phone after he was indicted.
“At the present time I have no knowledge of any charges or anything being filed,” Gregory told KOIN 6 News. “I have no comment on anything.”
His lawyer asked for a light sentence.
“Mr. Gregory’s age, caregiving responsibility, minor role in the offense, military service, and lack of criminal history all support a sentence that allows him to remain in the community,” wrote Craig Weinerman, Assistant Federal Public Defender.
The judge agreed. Gregory must pay back $184,230.69 to the seven identified victims.