HAMPTON – A Florida woman has been sentenced to prison for helping move stolen money with an email takeover scheme that struck an Iowa company.
The scam -- which involved infiltrating company email accounts and directing others at the businesses to wire funds -- had attempted to grab $450,000 and actually siphoned $297,099 from the victims over a three-month period in 2017.
Prosecutors said Karina Henao, a 36-year-old Colombian native who moved to the United States with her family when she was 4 years old but never obtained citizenship, pocketed $27,840 for her role.
The scam stole $87,400 from a Hampton business in October 2017 after taking over the email account of the company president, according to court records.
On Thursday, Judge Leon Strand sentenced Henao to one year and one month in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release after she pleaded to one count of federal wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids.
Henao set up a corporation in Florida and then opened bank accounts in the corporation’s name. Others in the operation infiltrated legitimate businesses in Oregon, Minnesota and Iowa --- usually with an email phishing ploy --- stealing money that was then wired to Henao’s accounts.
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When stolen money arrived, Henao was instructed to transfer the funds overseas to banks in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, according to court records.
The defense portrayed Henao as a mother of two who volunteered with the PTA and coached little league and played a minor role in the overall crime.
“She was not aware of the nature of the email hacks, how the email hacks were facilitated, nor what was being done with the fraudulently obtained money,” defense attorney Jill Johnston argued in a sentencing brief.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan, who prosecuted the case, said Henao was suspicious of the transactions but didn’t want to know what was going on.
“While defendant maintains that she did not know the nature of the scheme, she knew enough to know what she was doing was wrong, or ‘very shady’ in her own words,” Deegan said in court records.