A 70-year-old Gig Harbor woman was sentenced this week to six months in federal prison for participating in a Nevada-based fraud scheme that bilked millions from would-be investors.
Constance Fenton also must serve six months home confinement and pay $2.9 million in restitution, court records show.
Fenton in September pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Nevada to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prosecutors said she helped convince dozens of people to invest in “secret government programs” and land deals guaranteed to return high rates of interest, court records show.
A Nevada judge was part of the scheme, vouching for the people running it.
In fact, there were no programs or deals, and the fraud participants used the $3 million they collected to enrich themselves or pay off gambling debts, prosecutors said.
Fenton served as “the voice of the fraud,” cajoling would-be victims and commiserating with those who lost money, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada said in a news release.
“Fenton portrayed herself as a religious person and often appealed to the religious beliefs of her victims,” the news release states.
Prosecutors argued for a year in prison. Fenton’s defense team argued for no prison time.
Fenton is a retired high-school music teacher and “goodhearted person” who got in over her head, her lawyer wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
“Connie wanted so badly to believe that she and her friends and all the other investors would get their money,” the memo states. “Connie now realizes that she unwittingly played a part in a fraud that hurt many people.
“But also, and perhaps more importantly, Connie acknowledges that at some point she should have realized what was going on.”