A Fayette County woman admitted Thursday to scamming more than 700 cellphones and two handmade saddles by posing as a rodeo star and people who were supposed to be in business with the star.
Susan Rowan, 39, of Vanderbilt, pleaded guilty in federal court downtown to five counts of mail fraud in connection with her theft of the identity of professional barrel racer Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz.
She and her attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Linda Cohn, declined comment after the hearing. There was no answer at the number listed for Cervi.
Rowan opened a corporate account with Sprint by posing as Cervi, Cervi's relatives and business associates in a fictional company called “Hanson Industries,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen. She used email exchanges to persuade a San Antonio representative of Sprint that the business was legit, he said.
Between July 2008 and February 2010, Rowan placed bulk orders for cellphones and had hundreds shipped to various addresses. She picked up most of the shipments herself and handed out phones to relatives claiming that they were free to use on a trial basis.
Rowan returned 170 phones to Sprint.
“She burned the rest in a field next to her parents' house,” Kitchen said.
Rowan used the same email account to conduct online relationships with three men who flew into Western Pennsylvania thinking they were going to meet Cervi, he said.
In all, the estimated loss to Sprint was $432,000 and the Adams County saddle maker, identified only as J.R.W. in court documents, lost $8,000 in making two saddles that he thought were going to Cervi, Kitchen said.
Although Rowan admits to committing the crime, she disputes the amount of loss to Sprint, Kitchen said.
U.S. District Judge David Cercone scheduled sentencing for July 2. Rowan remains free on a $10,000 bond.
This article was written by Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.