ROANOKE, Virginia – A former Lynchburg attorney who specializes in retirement law and estate planning today pleaded guilty to fraudulent activity and misrepresentation.
According to court documents, Cherie Anne Washburn, 45, was alleged to have been involved in a fraud scheme to gain money or property through fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises made by elderly victims CA and DF Washburn, and to enrich herself with the ill-gotten funds. This includes buying real estate and donating to charities.
“This defendant posed as a lawyer who specializes in helping elderly clients. Instead, when she was hired by the victims in this case, she took advantage of the trust placed in her to use her customers’ money as her own, and inflicted great harm on her victims, ”said Acting US Attorney Daniel P. Bubar today. “The United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and our partners in the Commonwealth of Lynchburg Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate and prosecute elderly fraud as a top priority.”
“I am grateful to the US Attorney General who has so willingly offered to pool our efforts and resources on this case,” said Bethany Harrison, Commonwealth Attorney for Lynchburg City. “The coordinated response to the investigation into Washburn’s financial exploitation of its former customers involved many agencies such as the Adult Protection Service, Lynchburg Police Department and the FBI. The public can have confidence in our ability to work together to expose abuse of power and trust, as this successful law enforcement demonstration has shown. ”
In 2015 and 2016, a senior care management service company referred victims CA and DF to Washburn for legal counseling for the elderly. Washburn then concluded separate power of attorney agreements with both victims. Under the terms of both POAs, Washburn was entitled to reasonable compensation and reimbursement of reasonable expenses for services rendered, but could not use the client’s personal property for the benefit of the attorney.
Despite the agreements, Washburn wrote several checks and transferred the accounts of victim CA and victim DF to herself for her personal benefit. The value of these checks and remittances ranged from $ 3,025 to $ 45,000. Additionally, in 2017, Washburn attempted falsely to be the beneficiary of two CA investment accounts. 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, Virginia for approximately $ 219,000 with funds from victim CA and a mortgage lender. To complete the purchase, Washburn submitted a letter to Quicken Loans on or about April 22, 2018 incorrectly stating that Washburn was the great niece of CA’s victim and that CA Washburn was giving a gift of $ 40,000 for the Purchase of residence. The next day, Washburn transferred $ 45,000 from victim CA’s SunTrust account to Washburn’s Wells Fargo account.
Washburn pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and a false testimony to a mortgage lender. Washburn faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted. A federal district court judge will determine each sentence based on U.S. sentencing guidelines and other legal factors.
The Federal Criminal Police Office and the Lynchburg Police Headquarters are investigating the case.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Michael Baudinet, Lynchburg Commonwealth Attorney Bethany Harrison, and Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel P. Bubar are pursuing the case.