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Corfu woman sentenced by federal judge in African orphanage fraud scheme

By Howard B. Owens

A Corfu woman will serve a year of federal probation after admitting to knowingly participating in a fraud scheme perpetrated by an Internet contact who claimed to represent an orphanage in Africa.

Julie Keller, 57, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, was contacted by an "Eric Holder" in December 2014, who claimed to be raising money for an orphanage in Africa. 

Starting in July 2015 and until September 2020, Keller received money from numerous people who thought they were contributing to the orphanage project.

Keller raised $182,730.76 from the victims.

She deposited the money in bank accounts that she owned and controlled at First Niagara Bank, M&T Bank, KeyBank, and Bank of America before dispersing funds to other banks outside the United States.

During the course of the scheme, each of the banks closed Keller’s accounts, advising her that the accounts were closed due to suspicious and fraudulent activity.

Even though Keller realized during the course of the scheme that she was receiving funds from donors under false pretenses, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, she "consciously avoided learning the truth, and continued to deposit funds into her accounts from victims."

It's unclear from the U.S. Attorney's Office statement if Keller kept any of the funds for her own personal gain.

She was ordered to pay restitution of $162,853.59 by U.S. District Judge John L. Sinatra, Jr.

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