Ellis herself laundered several million dollars’ worth of fraud
proceeds through her bank accounts and other accounts under her control,
and she also arranged for the creation of high-quality forgeries of
checks and other documents used in the schemes. Her daughter, a bank
employee in Virginia, helped create counterfeit cashier’s checks and
monitored the flow of money between accounts used by the criminals. And
Cortese, a long-time lawyer with plenty of knowledge about how law firms
operated, helped launder money through law firms’ trust accounts and
often met in person with individuals to pick up the cash withdrawn from
receiver bank accounts.
“Victims were always instructed to wire
money into U.S. accounts under the control of conspirators,” explained
Williams. “Then, money mules would physically withdraw the money and
move it quickly to other accounts in the United States and,
eventually—often using money transmitting services—to overseas accounts.
And all of this happened before victims even realized they had been
defrauded.” Conspirators in Canada, Nigeria, South Korea, Senegal, and
elsewhere helped coordinate the fraud from abroad.
investigation was successful primarily because of its effective and
complex “follow the money” approach, explained Williams, which included
tracing the flow of illegal funds from beginning to end. Also playing a
key role in the outcome of the case was assistance from other law
enforcement agencies, including the Toronto Police Service.
defendants in this case were more than amply compensated for their
criminal activities, but according to Williams, Ellis lived an
especially lavish lifestyle. “She owned a large home in Texas along with
various businesses and other real estate, bought luxury vehicles and
other expensive items, and traveled the world on the millions of dollars
she made off the backs of her hard-working victims,” he said.
according to court documents, neither she nor Cortese ever expressed
any remorse over the damage they left in the wake of their actions.