Law360.com reports that federal judge Steven D. Merryday of the Middle District of Floria (Tampa) has held that former Kerrville lawyer Perry D. Cortese and his co-conspirators are responsible for more than $15 million in losses in their international fraud/money laundering scheme. The maximum sentence is 40 years and they may get it as the sentencing guidelines get worse the bigger the loss.
"At least by a preponderance of the evidence (or more exactly, essentially all the evidence) establishes that Ellis, Cortese and Johnson knowingly facilitated the movement of millions of dollars in intended fraud proceeds," the judge said.
A jury convicted the three in October last year. They each face up to 40 years in prison at sentencing, set for this October. Federal prison has no parole so they will do about 90% of the term they're sentenced to.
Priscilla Ann Ellis and Perry Cortese are old criminal associates from the Belton area. The judge wrote that "Priscilla Ellis was (and is) a brazen, aggressive and unapologetic fraudster and money launderer." She has also been convicted of trying to hire a hitman to kill one of the witnesses.
Of Cortese, the judge wrote, "A licensed attorney in Texas, Cortese laundered victims' money through his IOLTA and other bank accounts.... The evidence aptly describes Cortese as the 'company lawyer' - a pliable, obedient, and appreciative tool for the criminal network he stood ready to aid - and avidly aided ... by exploiting his office as a lawyer to coerce, cajole, reassure, or exploit - as needed."
One of their confederates was a money launderer named Muhammed Naji. Cortese even helped scam an elderly lady in Utah through a lonely hearts scam and got her unwittingly involved in money laundering.
The full article by Shayna Posses is available online at law360.com.