LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Federal prosecutors said a woman from Tampa, Florida pleaded guilty without the benefit of a plea agreement to 11 accounts of mail fraud.
Maria Jesus Luciano, 66, lived in Las Vegas from 2010 to 2011 and during that time, she befriended a man she met at church, federal prosecutors said. Luciano returned to Tampa and maintained contact with the man.
According to federal prosecutors, Luciano lied to the man and claimed she had a pending settlement award from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. She told the man she would share the settlement with him if he provided her money to pay fees, interest and other costs related to obtaining the settlement.
In actuality, Luciano had been discharged from the U.S. Army in 1971 and received monthly pension benefits from Veteran Affairs for non-military service related disability, federal prosecutors said. Luciano was not entitled to any large monetary award or settlement.
In July 2013, Luciano mailed the man a fake promissory note, which granted him an interest in the "settlement award," according to federal prosecutors. The man used his position as a controller at a large real estate investment business to embezzle and steal roughly $1.3 million from the business and investors.
Federal prosecutors said Luciano used the money for gambling and personal expenses.
Luciano is set to be sentenced on Jan. 24, 2019 before U.S. District Judge Andrew P. Gordon, according to federal prosecutors. The maximum statutory penalty for mail fraud is 20 years in prison and a potential fine. Luciano also faces a criminal forfeiture money judgement of $1,298,748.56.
The case was investigated by the FBI with help from the Offices of the Inspectors General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs also assisted with the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Burns is prosecuting the case.