WEST ORANGE, NJ - Shawn L. Craig, 47, of West Orange, pleaded guilty today in Trenton Federal Court to mail fraud and filing a false personal federal income tax return for 2011 by not disclosing income--including nearly $100,000 she stole from an elderly East Orange woman on Social Security. Craig entered her guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp.
Craig took the victim's Social Security payments and took out a reverse mortgage on the woman's home without her knowledge. Craig was entrusted in 2010 to handle the victim's living expenses and entered into a general power of attorney to serve as her attorney-in-fact.
According to court documents, once Craig gained access to the victim's bank accounts, she began using a portion of the funds for her own benefit, such as paying her automobile insurance; purchasing a bar and bar stools; making a tuition payment; and paying for entertainment at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. That money came primarily from the victim's Social Security benefits.
In December 2010, Craig then submitted an application in the victim’s name for a reverse mortgage on the victim's home in East Orange. The victim refused to sign the required power of attorney to allow closing of the reverse mortgage to go forward. Craig then forged the victim’s signature on the document, delivering it to the title agent at the title agent’s office in Morristown.
Craig used the reverse mortgage monies to make purchases at Gucci, Coach, Nike, Apple, Footlocker and various other shoe stores; pay for meals; purchases at liquor stores; pay for entertainment and travel, including the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Amazing LA Tours in Santa Monica, Calif.; trips and stays at hotels in New Jersey, California and Florida; and pay personal bills, including automobile insurance, gas and electric, cell phone and cable bills.
Craig learned the general power of attorney had been revoked In June 2011, so she transferred the victim’s money into a new bank account. Approximately $99,000 of the victim's funds were fraudulently misused.
In addition, Craig admitted that she had a tax preparer prepare and electronically file a false and fraudulent personal income tax return for tax year 2011. She did not disclose the stolen funds as income.
Court records further stipulated that Craig's "mail fraud charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The tax charge carries a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, the plea agreement requires Craig to make restitution to the victim. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 2, 2014."
Several individuals and agencies were credited in the arrest of Shawn L. Craig including special agents of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region; the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford; IRS--Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen; and Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Ryan.