Woman gets 8 years in prison for stealing more than $3.6M from employer, friends

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Teresa Adamos Pereda, age 57, from Barrigada, was sentenced in the United States District Court of Guam in connection with two separate fraudulent schemes.

Pereda pleaded guilty on January 31, 2020 to multiple counts of Bank Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1344, in Criminal Case No. 19-00047; and on April 14, 2021 to multiple counts of Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1343, and one count of Unlawful Use of Seals of U.S. Departments or Agencies, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §506(a)(2), in Criminal Case No. 21-00004.

United States District Judge John C. Coughenour sentenced Pereda to a 60- month term of imprisonment, to run concurrent to a 96-month term of imprisonment and five years of supervised release. Judge Coughenour also ordered Pereda to pay $1,150,430 restitution to her former employer, an additional $2,527,838 restitution to other multiple victims, forfeiture money judgments of $1,150,430 and $2,527,838, and $3,500 special assessment fees, and to forfeit personal property.

Pereda was employed as an office manager at the dental clinic of Robert R. Gatewood D.D.S. M.S., A Professional Corporation. From January 2011 until her termination in September 2019, she stole $1,150,430 from her employer by writing 284 fraudulent checks from her employer’s First Hawaiian Bank checking account for her personal use. To conceal the embezzlement scheme from her employer and First Hawaiian Bank, Pereda falsified check stubs to make it appear the checks were issued for business purposes, and falsely recorded the transactions in the company’s internal accounting system.

In a separate case, from January 2016 to November 2019, Pereda participated in an advance fee inheritance scheme and defrauded at least 36 victims, including family, friends, co-workers and members of the St. Paul Christian Church and St. Paul Christian School alumni.

She obtained $2,527,838 by falsely representing that she expected to receive a multi-million dollar inheritance from an elderly couple from Hawaii, but had to pay taxes, attorney’s fees, and other expenses upfront before she could receive the funds.

Pereda convinced the victims to give her money to pay for such inheritance-related and other expenses and assured them she would repay them a larger sum of money from her inheritance.

Pereda knew these claims were false at the time she made them. She also knew that no inheritance was forthcoming from an elderly couple in Hawaii. In addition, Pereda provided some victims with bogus documents and seals from various United States government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Pereda sent over $2.5 million of investor funds via wire transfer to other co-schemers in the United States and foreign
countries.

“The significant sentence in this case reflects the extraordinary losses suffered by numerous victims,” stated Shawn N. Anderson, United States Attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. “In addition to a lengthy term of imprisonment, our prosecution of Pereda has deprived her of all proceeds from her criminal activity. It is noteworthy that the FBI pursued this matter across multiple jurisdictions over the course of the ongoing pandemic. We are thankful for their exceptional dedication to keeping our communities safe.”

“Pereda preyed upon the trust she gained with her employer, community, church, friends and family and defrauded them of their hard-earned money and retirement savings,” said Steven Merrill, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office. “She caused the loss of millions of dollars by repeatedly lying that the pay-off would come if her victims just gave more money. The FBI is committed to investigating investment scams and I urge the people of Guam to be wary of any offers that sound ‘too good to be true’.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Marivic David, Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Guam.

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