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Belleville man pleads guilty in wire fraud case

A Belleville man pleaded guilty Wednesday to counts of wire fraud and money laundering.

At his sentencing, Brian J. Fields, 52, will face up to 20 years in federal prison as to each count, a fine of up to $750,000 and up to three years of supervised release, Stephen R. Wigginton, United States attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said today.

Sentencing has been set for Sept. 12, at 1:30 p.m. in United States District Court in East St. Louis.

During his plea hearing, Fields admitted that he assisted a person from overseas (Nigeria) in defrauding United States citizens by sending counterfeit checks and money orders to individuals in several schemes (such as a “Secret Shopper” scam).

The schemes resulted in victims receiving the counterfeit check or money order, depositing it into their own bank account, and then at the direction of Fields, the victim would wire transfer legitimate funds to Fields.

By the time the person learned the check or money order was worthless, they had already sent the money to Fields. When Fields received the victims’ money, he would keep a portion for himself and then to further the scheme, Fields would send the remaining funds to a person located in Nigeria. Agents were able to identify over 70 victims that had lost over $100,000.

The investigation was conducted by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Secret Service, and the Swansea, Illinois, Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ranley R. Killian.

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