A Hilo man was arraigned today on federal wire fraud charges that he obtained more than $1 million from individuals by making false representations in an “advance fee” scheme.
So far, more than 30 alleged victims have come forward on Oahu, Big Island, Maui, and Las Vegas, according to a news release issued today by the FBI.
A federal grand jury indicted Justin Wade Smith, 32, on Wednesday in a 39-count federal indictment, which was unsealed upon Smith’s arrest in Hilo yesterday. Smith pled not guilty to the charges at the arraignment, and trial is now set for Oct. 29 before U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright. Smith is detained pending a further hearing on release, which is scheduled for Tuesday.
Florence T. Nakakuni, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii, said that according to the indictment, Smith engaged in a scheme to defraud involving the solicitation of money through various false representations.
According to the indictment, Smith conned individuals with two stories. In one, Smith one claimed that he would inherit a sizable amount of money from a family trust, once he paid certain fees and costs. In the other, he claimed to be a contractor or agent of a law enforcement agency, and could generate large fees through seizures of contraband or cash. Smith allegedly told others that he needed to fund the law enforcement operations but would be paid out of the resulting seizures.
According to the indictment, Smith obtained more than $1 million between 2006 and 2012 from individuals on the false promise that he would repay the advances, with significant interest, either from his inheritance, or from payments from the law enforcement agency.
For each of the wire fraud counts, Smith faces a maximum period of imprisonment of 20 years, a fine of up to $250,000. The investigation of this case was conducted by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.
Vida Bottom, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Honolulu Field Office of the FBI, said any individuals having knowledge of Smith’s activities are invited to call the FBI’s Kona office at (808) 329-5106.