NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that SONOVAH JUDITH HILLMAN, age 29, a resident of Hercules, California, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo to three years of probation, with eight months of home confinement, after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343 and 1349. Judge Milazzo also ordered HILLMAN to pay restitution in the amount of $92,007.85 to the victim.
According to court documents, the charges to which HILLMAN pleaded guilty stemmed from her role as a “money mule” in a scheme to victimize Company A, a floating crane and stevedore company headquartered in Convent, Louisiana. HILLMAN and her co-conspirator(s) engaged in a “business email compromise” (BEC) scheme. They accomplished their scheme by obtaining access without authorization to the email accounts of one or more employees of Company A for the purpose of obtaining private data, including usernames, passwords, bank account information, and the content of email accounts through a “phishing” scam. After gaining access to an email account of a Company A employee, the co-conspirator(s) arranged to have emails in the account forwarded to a separate email account under their control. Thereafter, HILLMAN’s co-conspirators registered a domain name similar to Company A’s domain (for example, “Company A” instead of “Company A”) and, pretending to be representatives of Company A, sent emails to Company A’s customers, including Company B. The false emails stated that there had been an audit of Company A’s bank accounts and that Company A’s customers should remit funds owed to Company A to a new bank account.
On about May 10, 2017, HILLMAN’s co-conspirators contacted one of Company A’s customers (Company B) via email and, pretending to be employees of Company A, instructed that Company B should remit funds owed to Company A, approximately $92,007.85, to a Bank of America account that belonged to HILLMAN. After Company B sent the funds to HILLMAN’s account, HILLMAN engaged in a series of transactions over the next five days to transfer the money to others, withdraw over $40,000 in cash, and spend ill-gotten money on personal items, including vacations and airline flights.
U.S. Attorney Strasser praised the work of the United States Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg, supervisor of the Public Corruption Unit, was in charge of the prosecution.