Authorities arrest pawn shop owners on charges of money laundering, fraud
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Two local businessmen were among seven Hampton Roads residents arrested on money laundering and other fraud-related charges after a 31-count federal indictment was unsealed Tuesday.
Matthew John Russo, 40, of Portsmouth, and Douglas Harold Decker, 61, of Suffolk, who manage Bunny’s Pawn Shop in downtown Suffolk, were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, use of fictitious names, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, said Paul J. McNulty, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
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Authorities believe more than $163,000 passed through the doors of Bunny’s Pawn Shop as a result of the scams operated by the group.
Facing the same charges are John Maurice Henoud, 51, Sharon Kay Moore, 43, and Ronald Clark Morrison, 50, all of Virginia Beach; and Russell D. Williford, 70, and Ralph Collins, 67, both of Chesapeake.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Federal officials alleged that Henoud and his co-conspirators falsely represented to businesses that they were collecting money for charitable causes, when they were actually converting the money for their own use.
McNulty’s indictment alleges that the conspiracy began when Henoud formed the Youth At Risk Foundation and Just Sports Publications, supposedly non-profit organizations that claimed to provide charitable services for disadvantaged youth.
By the year 2000, several sub-organizations under the Youth At Risk Foundation and Just Sports Publication falsely claimed to provide programs that would develop young athletes; sponsor middle school basketball tournaments; give at-risk youth exposure to new technologies; teen talks with adult mentors; musical instruction with mentoring and drop-out prevention; and a program committed to promoting multi-cultural co-existence.
Funds for the programs were solicited on various websites, by telephone, and advertising sales, according to the U.S. attorney’s allegations. The donations were collected in person, by mail, and wire transmissions.
The indictment also states that numerous checks, consisting of the fraudulent proceeds collected, were cashed at Bunny’s Pawn Shop at the corner of West Washington and north Main streets.
Other fraudulent schemes alleged in the indictment include a sports event program, a Sept. 11 scheme, a Hampton Road Heisman/Lombardi Awards scheme, and a Senior Shopping Guide scheme.
The schemes were so complex that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has not been able to identify each and every victim.
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim should contact Jennifer Stacoffe, victim specialist with the FBI, at 757-455-2649.