BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Julie Keller, 55, of Corfu, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with mail fraud. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan P. Cantil, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, between 2014 and August 2020, the defendant engaged as a money mule for various internet based scams, accepting and re-directing thousands of dollars to Africa. During that time, she had accounts closed by at least five different national and local banks due to suspicious cash, check, money order, and wire activity.
On July 17, 2020, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) received a request for assistance from the Boston, Massachusetts Police Department. A detective was investigating a report of an individual (C.R.P.), who believed she had been defrauded in relation to a rental property listed on the online classified site, Craigslist. In June, 2020, C.R.P. replied to an advertisement for an available apartment for rent and, ultimately agreed to rent a property listed on their local Craigslist site. All communication between the supposed landlord and C.R.P. was completed via text message. The supposed landlord instructed C.R.P. to split the deposit for the rental between an electronic payment via an electronic cellular telephone application, or “cash app,” and by money order, using the U.S. Mail. The supposed landlord instructed C.R.P. to send the money order to Julie Keller in Corfu, New York, who was identified as an accountant. The investigation determined that the address provided by the supposed landlord is a United States Postal Service (USPS) Facility in Corfu and Keller is employed by the USPS as a mail carrier.
After C.R.P. made the down payments as instructed, the person listing the property ceased all contact, and the property was never secured or occupied by C.R.P. C.R.P. provided a number of screen shots from her cellular telephone, depicting her text communications with the individual who had listed the rental property. Subsequent investigation determined that other individuals sent the defendant down payments for the rental property listed on Craigslist.
A cursory look into Julie Keller’s banking history revealed that she had a pattern of suspicious cash, check, money order and wire activity totaling in excess of $150,000.00 dating back to 2014. Records indicated Keller had been either deceptive or unresponsive when questioned by bank personnel about the nature of her transactions. Her activities included the use of national and local banks, as well as Western Union and MoneyGram.
Keller made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. and was released on conditions.
The criminal complaint is the result of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector-in-Charge Joseph W. Cronin of the Boston Division.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.