Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 | 1:57 p.m.
A former Las Vegas resident who allegedly operated bogus debt-relief companies was arraigned on felony conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering charges, U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden announced Friday.
Marilyn Stewart, 39, was arraigned Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl W. Hoffman and pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 15 counts of mail fraud, 12 counts of wire fraud, six counts of money laundering and one count of making a false statement to the FBI, officials said.
Stewart, who has since moved to Philadelphia, is accused of operating two companies in Las Vegas during 2009 and 2010 that claimed they could help people obtain loans and reduce credit card, student loan, vehicle and mortgage debts, officials said.
Stewart and her alleged co-conspirator, 41-year-old Henry Lee Stuckey, owned and operated Pureasset Investment Corp. in 2009 and Reviving American Dreams in 2010, officials said.
Customers of the firms seeking debt-relief help were required to pay an advance fee for each debt program, officials said. Stewart and Stuckey allegedly told customers they would receive a refund if the debt reduction was successful. The pair also paid commissions to customers to refer others to the programs.
In the process, Stewart and Stuckey are accused of making false statements to the victims about whether their debts were being paid — a scheme to continue the fraud and ensure new and existing customers submitted fees and recruited other customers, officials said.
The defendants then used the customer fees for personal expenses, such as rent, food, travel, entertainment and attorney fees.
All told, Stewart and Stuckey received more than $200,000 in advance fees from about 66 customers in various states, including Nevada, officials said.
Stuckey is charged with mail and wire fraud and assault under a separate case. His trial is scheduled for Sept. 11 before U.S. District Judge Philip Pro.
Hoffman released Stewart on a personal recognizance bond with supervision and conditions pending trial, scheduled for Oct. 15. Stewart was indicted July 25 in Las Vegas and arrested Aug. 1 in Philadelphia.
Stewart faces up to 20 years in prison on each conspiracy count and fraud count and up to five years in prison on the false statement count. She also could face fines up to $10.25 million.