Montana Woman Sent Millions as Money Mule, $2M Restitution Sought
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - A Kalispell woman, 58-year-old Theresa Ann Chabot has been sentenced in Missoula Federal District Court to almost five years in federal prison after admitting to being a ‘money mule’ who defrauded victims of over $5 million in various schemes.
Chabot pleaded guilty in September 2022 to operating unlicensed money-transmitting businesses.
Kalispell Woman was a Money Mule for Over $5 million that Went Overseas
KGVO News spoke to Andy Tsui, Special Agent in Charge of Criminal Investigations with the Internal Revenue Service Field Office in Denver about the case.
"Theresa Chabot pled guilty and was sentenced to 57 months in prison and must pay over $2 million in restitution,” began Agent Tsui. “Essentially, she was a money mule. That’s a term that we use in these types of schemes where it's a person whose sole job is to move money around for the criminals that are engaged in these kinds of schemes. So, in this situation, Chabot was engaged in opening bank accounts and transmitting money, essentially unlicensed money services business for these schemes.”
The IRS said Chabot Helped Bilk Millions of Dollars from Elderly Victims
Agent Tsui said Chabot was responsible for the distribution of over $5 million of money stolen from elderly and often vulnerable individuals all over the U.S.
“I think it's almost five and a half million dollars of money going through her accounts and we're talking numerous accounts,” he said. “Various bank accounts were set up, and after one account was closed by the bank for suspicious activity, then she opened up another one. So there were more than 50 bank accounts involved in this activity.”
$10,000 was Found Hidden Inside a Stuffed Animal
One unusual way that over $10,000 dollars were recovered was when the cash was hidden inside a child’s stuffed animal.
“I think that's one example of how money was received by her was money that was hidden inside a stuffed animal and sent to her so that it could be deposited,” he said. “So in that instance, I believe it was it was cash being sent over to her as opposed to undertaken to financial transactions that were sent over to her which would have been possibly wire transfers and other times utilizing various monetary instruments.”
Agent Tsui is asking all KGVO listeners and website readers to keep a special eye out for elderly or financially vulnerable individuals that could be being taken advantage of by these fraudulent schemes.
“If you notice a family member that might be conducting some transactions are out of the ordinary, they are not normal,” he said. “Certainly ask questions. That's the best way to start figuring out if something's going on there. We want to prevent as much of this crime as possible because it is so difficult to get the money back for the victims. So when there's a situation where there's a potential scam, report it to local law enforcement first, and then, if necessary, then report it to multiple law enforcement agencies.”
Chabot operated a business called Avalanche Creek and was required to register that business with the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Folk should report to Adult Protective Services when they suspect financial exploitation involving an elderly or disabled adult. Report to www.aps.mt.gov or call the Intake line at 1-844-277-9300 Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.