Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Man Pleads Guilty in Repair Scam; 5 Others Linked to Fraud Scheme

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Man Pleads Guilty in Repair Scam; 5 Others Linked to Fraud Scheme

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski, Times-Union staff writer

BRUNSWICK -- A Jesup man testified yesterday in federal court that he participated in a home repair scheme that relied on intimidation tactics to bilk an elderly St. Simons Island woman out of almost a half-million dollars.

Sean Olds, 28, pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud as part of a plea bargain that also requires him to possibly testify against his mother and others also charged as part of a continuing FBI investigation in the case.

In exchange, federal prosecutors will dismiss 19 related counts of wire fraud. If Olds provides "substantial assistance" during the investigation, prosecutors also will ask that he be shown some leniency when sentenced, according to the plea bargain.

Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Olds will have to serve at least 85 percent of any prison term imposed before becoming eligible for release, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

Olds had been indicted on 24 counts of wire fraud April 4 by a federal grand jury in Savannah. The indictment charged Olds along with his mother and four other people with participating in a home repair scam that victimized an 86-year-old widow.

The scam involved charging the woman for repairs and construction work that never were performed at her home, and overcharging her for minor or shoddy repairs, authorities said.

Olds testified about the scheme -- downplaying his involvement -- in a hearing conducted by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Alaimo, who accepted the plea bargain.

The FBI agent leading the investigation also testified about the case -- telling the court that verbal harassment and threats were used to intimidate the woman into paying about $486,600 to Olds and others involved in the scheme. …

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