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Four of five women wanted in financial scheme taken into custody

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

BOLIVIA—Four of the five women wanted in connection with a scheme that drained a veterans’ life savings have been taken into custody.

Lisa McClain, the alleged ringleader of the scheme, however, remains at large.

At press time Monday, McClain was the only suspect who had not been arrested.

For more than two years, McClain and the four other women are accused of making 1,647 fraudulent transactions, accounting for a loss of more than $260,000 for the U.S. Army veteran, living alone in Leland, Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office detective Ed Carter said.

The victim has since recouped most of the stolen money—all but about $2,000 of it, Carter said.

McClain has been charged with felony financial exploitation of an elderly person, felony financial identity theft, felony accessing computers, obtaining property by false pretences, felony breaking and entering, felony larceny, felony conspiracy and felony continuing criminal enterprise.

Anyone with information about McClain or her whereabouts is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 253-2777.

Other suspects charged in connection, all of whom worked in the nursing care arena, are:

•Monica Machelle Frazier, 39, of Wilmington, was charged with obtaining property by false pretences, felony accessing computers, felony conspiracy and continuing criminal enterprise. Frazier turned herself in to the New Hanover County Detention Center. She was not in custody at press time Monday.

•Maria Shaw Sloan, 64, of 107 South 12th St., Wilmington, was charged with obtaining property by false pretences, felony accessing computers, felony conspiracy and continuing criminal enterprise. Sloan was in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Center under a $100,000 secured bond.

•Velda Denise Barnhill, 41, of 800 South 14th St., Wilmington, was charged with obtaining property by false pretences, felony accessing computers, felony conspiracy and continuing criminal enterprise. Barnhill was in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Center under a $100,000 secured bond.

•Pamela Denise Springer, 43, of Wilmington, was charged with obtaining property by false pretences, felony accessing computers, felony conspiracy and continuing criminal enterprise. Springer was in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Center under a $100,000 secured bond.

The scheme

In October 2011, the victim received a call from the branch manager of BB&T in Leland, who told him his account was empty. The victim immediately knew something was off, and BB&T immediately created a secure account for him, and began to investigate what happened.

Carter initiated his investigation at that time, and found Lisa Veronica McClain, 43, of Wilmington, at the center of the scheme, which drained the victim of his life’s savings. McClain worked in the victim’s home as a home health aid employed by Allied Home Health from October 2008 until March 2009. When the victim reported McClain stealing from him, she was fired.

But Carter said McClain already had what she needed, his account and routing numbers, which enabled her to draw from or make transactions from his bank account—more than 1,600 in all—between April 2009 and October 2011.

During this two-year period, Carter said McClain and four accomplices, all of whom are facing felony charges, initiated a “bill-paying or debt consolidation service.”

They would reach out to people in their communities, offering to settle and consolidate debts at negotiated prices. In turn, they would pay bills through the victim’s bank account and collect the money they were given, Carter said.

Most transactions were paying power and cable bills to Progress Energy and Time Warner Cable, respectively, but other transactions including insurance, mortgage and cell phone payments.

While the victim in this case recouped most of his money, that is not always the case, Carter stressed.

“Safeguard your financial information. Review your credit card statements and bank transactions. Do a background check on anyone who comes to work in your home. Contact your bank or credit card company immediately if you suspect something is amiss,” Carter said.

Caroline Curran is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com. Follow her on Twitter at @cgcurran.