BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Natalie Cochran, a Raleigh County pharmacist, pled quality to one count of wire fraud and one count of unlawful monetary transaction on Monday.
This is for her involvement in a Ponzi scheme with her late husband as they owned two companies that did not have the government contracts that they claimed to have.
Cochran is how facing up to 11 years in federal prison for the scheme she admitted lasted from June of 2017 to August of 2019.
U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of West Virginia Mike Stuart held a press conference after her hearing.
“In addition to time behind bars in a federal prison, as part of her plea, Cochran has agreed to pay restitution in the amount of nearly $2.6 million,” Stuart said.
According to Stuart, Cochran will also have to give up major assets including two properties and a 1965 Shelby Cobra. She also waived her right to appeal in the future.
Cochran only pled to 2 of her 26 counts and while some might call that a “slap on the wrist,” Stuart says when it comes to charges like money laundering and wire fraud, the punishment is usually consistent across the board regardless of counts.
“Had we convicted Cochran through a jury trial on every single count of this indictment, she would be facing virtually the very same exposure that she faces through this plea agreement,” Stuart said. “It was a great deal for the taxpayers. This is the right deal for the American people, for the people of West Virginia, the right deal for her victims.”
Court documents state that there were 11 victims who were told they would be investing in companies called Technology Management Solutions and Tactical Solutions Group.
They invested around $2.5 million “phony government contracts.”
Stuart says Cochran admitted she never invested that money but put it in her personal and business bank accounts.
The minimum sentence Cochran is looking at is 3 years and 1 month.
“I can just tell you right now. We’re gonna do the best we can to make sure that the full weight of justice is recognized and realized in this case,” Staurt said.
Cochran released the following statement after her hearing:
“In the interest of my family and children, I have decided to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of unlawful monetary transaction in relation to the companies, owned by my husband and I. I realize that I am responsible for any action taken by the companies as a controlling member. I look forward to the day I am provided the opportunity to go into more detail regarding the events that have transpired in the last few years. It is my goal that every investor be made financially whole in regards to their interactions with the businesses and that my children and I can finally put this behind us and move forward with our lives.”
Full press release from the office of Mike Stuart:
BECKLEY, W.Va. – Natalie P. Cochran, 39, of Daniels, pled guilty in federal court today to fraud charges, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart. Cochran, a Raleigh County pharmacist and owner of two companies in Beckley – Technology Management Solutions (TMS) and Tactical Solutions Group (TSG) – pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. Pursuant to her plea agreement, Cochran also agreed to pay nearly $2.6 million in restitution to her victims and to forfeit her interest to the United States in the assets she obtained through her fraudulent activities, including two pieces of real property, a 1965 Shelby Cobra, multiple vehicles, pieces of jewelry, and nearly $45,000 seized from her business’ bank account.
“Today, Natalie Cochran admitted and pled guilty of committing the federal crimes of wire fraud and money laundering,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “In terms of this agreement, trust me, this is a difficult day for Natalie Cochran. Not only could she be sentenced to more than 11 years in prison, Cochran agreed to forfeiture of a substantial amount of cash and assets. Cochran also waived her right to appeal. Cochran pled guilty. I am pleased that this agreement results in the goal I have in every case – justice for victims and taxpayers.”
Cochran admitted that from approximately June 2017 through at least August 22, 2019, she knowingly defrauded and took money and property from individuals, a financial institution and several other companies. She induced them to invest in TMS and TSG and in phony government contracts by making false misrepresentations regarding her and her companies’ experience and purported success as government contractors. Cochran further admitted that she convinced at least 11 people to invest approximately $2.5 million in alleged government contracts. The investors paid through personal checks, cashier’s checks and wire transfers. She also convinced an investor to send $511,920 through a wire transfer from North Carolina. She further admitted she never invested the money she received but put it into her personal and business bank accounts for personal purposes unrelated to the investments. Cochran admitted to using investor funds to make numerous purchases over $10,000, including withdrawing more than $37,500 to purchase a 1965 Shelby Cobra. She also admitted to knowing that at least one of her investors suffered a financial hardship as a result of her scheme. In order to keep up appearances, Cochran admitted to using some investors’ funds to pay other investors a partial return on their investment.
Cochran faces up to 135 months in prison when sentenced on January 4, 2021.