A Blaine man pleaded guilty on Wednesday, June 29, to wire fraud and four counts of willfully failing to file tax returns in connection with an Internet scam often associated with Nigeria.
Since at least 2003, Scott Alan Stuart, 51, had convinced investors across the country to send him money in order to claim an inheritance his father supposedly left him in a bank in Canada, according to documents
filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Stuart told investors that his father had made millions of dollars constructing an oil pipeline in Nigeria and that Stuart needed money from investors to pay taxes that would allow him to collect the $30 million his father had left him.
Stuart attracted investors with promised high returns on what he described as loans. He promised to pay the loans back quickly, though the bulk of the money collected from others ended up being used for Stuart’s own expenses.
Court documents indicated Stuart’s investors, dozens from across the U.S., sent him amounts ranging from $500 to $45,100 in hopes of getting a large return when Stuart repaid the loans. Stuart told investors he would periodically send money to Nigerian associates or their middlemen in the U.S. in order to expedite access to his father’s inheritance.
Chief U.S. district judge Robert Lasnik will sentence Stuart on October 28. Wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, while willful failure to file taxes is punishable by up to one year in prison for each count.
An accomplice of Stuart’s, Wayne Sewell of Ferndale, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on April 25. Sewell aided Stuart in withdrawing about $153,000 from a bank in Bellingham and delivering the money in cash to Stuart, according to Sewell’s plea agreement. Conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries up to five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.