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1-year sentence for Clarion woman charged with conspiracy

In most cases, when federal prosecutors charge a person with conspiracy, the charge is brought in conjunction with other allegations, such as fraud or federal drug crimes. However, a person can still face serious penalties for a conspiracy conviction, even if prosecutors can't prove the other charges.

For example, consider the case of a Pennsylvania woman who was once featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Years ago, the 50-year-old Clarion resident invested hundreds of dollars to purchase a used mail truck that she converted into an ice cream vendor. Some success in that area led to another business involving electronic games. More recently, however, the woman was accused of playing a part in a fraud involving caffeinated products, such as energy shots and energy chews.

Authorities claim the defendant started working for a company called American Vending Systems, which was based in Colorado. Her job was to provide references to people who were interested in paying $10,000 for vending machines for caffeinated products.

However, an attorney with the Department of Justice claimed the defendant made up fake names in order to persuade about 250 investors to send money to the company, which didn't provide much in return.

According to her public defender, the woman received about $25,000 over the course of three years and believed the business was legitimate. Five other individuals described as "masterminds" were said to have received much more money through the scheme.

Other individuals in Texas and Colorado have reportedly already been prosecuted.

The woman was recently given a one-year prison sentence and will have to pay $215,033 in restitution. Her sentence also includes a three-year period of probation following her prison term.

Defending against a conspiracy charge typically involves showing that the government is wrong about the relationship between the defendant and the other alleged participants in the conspiracy. To learn more about defending against fraud and conspiracy charges, please visit our criminal defense website.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Clarion woman sentenced in vending machine fraud," Rich Lord, Jan. 10, 2014

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