Perry Don Cortese, a former resident of Kerrville who still has cases in area courts, was indicted in U.S. District Court, Middle Dist. of Florida, Tampa Division, on Aug. 20. The indictment has two counts: wire fraud, and international money laundering conspiracy.
The Government alleges that he conspired with Priscilla Ann Ellis and one Muhammed Naji to defraud lawyers. The scam allegedly worked like this: they created fictitious companies and opened bank accounts. They contacted lawyers under the fake names and asked them to represent them in legal disputes and transactions. Then they told the lawyers that the case had settled, or the "defendants" agreed to settle. Cortese, Ellis and Muhammed allegedly forged cashier's checks, which the lawyers endorsed and deposited into their trust accounts. The lawyers allegedly took their fee, then wire transferred the balance to Cortese et al.
Muhammed has already pled guity, presumably with an agreement to help the Government.
Allegedly, the conspirators attempted to disguise the source and nature of the funds, and wired them overseas.
An alleged sideline was setting up fake identities on dating websites and cheating lonely people with hopes of romance.
The indictment also claims they hacked into email accounts and fraudulently transferred money.
The maximum sentence is a fine up to $500,000 and/or 20 years in prison, and in the federal system there's no parole.
Cortese has applied for court appointed counsel.