Former attorney pleads guilty to wire fraud, making false statements
A former Lynchburg attorney who specialized in elder law and estate planning pleaded guilty last week to wire fraud and making false statements.
According to court documents, Cherie Anne Washburn, 45, engaged in a scheme to defraud and obtain money or property by fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises from elderly victims identified as C.A. and D.F.
Washburn is alleged to have used the ill-gotten monies to enrich herself, including purchasing real estate and making donations to charities.
“This defendant held herself out as an attorney specializing in helping elderly clients. Instead, when hired by the victims in this case, she exploited the trust that was placed in her to use her clients’ money as her own and caused great harm to her victims,” Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar said. “The United States Attorney’s Office, FBI, and our partners at the Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate and prosecute elder fraud as a top priority.”
“I am grateful to the U. S. Attorney’s Office who so willing offered to combine our efforts and resources for this case,” said Bethany Harrison, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Lynchburg. “The coordinated response to investigate Washburn’s financial exploitation of her former clients involved many agencies such as Adult Protective Services, the Lynchburg Police Department, and the FBI. The public can have confidence in our ability to work together to expose abuses of positions of power and trust as shown through this successful prosecution.”
In 2015 and 2016, a senior care management service company referred victims C.A. and D.F. to Washburn for the purpose of obtaining elder legal services. Washburn subsequently entered separate Power of Attorney agreements with both victims. Under the terms of both POAs, Washburn was entitled to reasonable compensation and reimbursement for reasonable expenses for services rendered but could not use the personal property of the client to benefit the attorney.
Despite the agreements, Washburn wrote multiple checks and made wire transfers from victim C.A. and victim D.F.’s accounts to herself for personal benefit. These checks and transfers ranged in value from $3,025 to $45,000. Additionally, in 2017, Washburn attempted to improperly make herself the beneficiary of two investment accounts held by C.A. At the time, these accounts had a combined approximate value of $288,000.
In April 2018, Washburn entered into an agreement to purchase a residence in Lynchburg, Va., for approximately $219,000 using monies belonging to victim C.A. and a mortgage lender. In order to complete the purchase, on or about April 22, 2018, Washburn submitted a letter to Quicken Loans falsely stating that Washburn was victim C.A.’s great-niece and that C.A. provided Washburn with a gift of $40,000 for the purchase of the residence. The next day Washburn deposited $45,000 from victim C.A.’s SunTrust Account to Washburn’s Wells Fargo account.
Washburn pleaded guilty to two count of wire frauds and one count of making a false statement to a mortgage lender. At sentencing, Washburn faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Lynchburg City Police Department are investigating the case.