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Financial Crimes

Missouri mother and daughter indicted for million dollar Nigerian fraud scheme

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A south central Missouri woman and her daughter were indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday for their roles in an international fraud scheme in which victims were tricked into cashing counterfeit money orders.

This indictment resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the St. Robert (Mo.) Police Department.

In the indictment returned by a federal grand jury April 1, Nancy Madelen Peebles, 73, and her daughter Lisa Kaye Barwick-Majeski, 53, both of St. Robert, Mo., were charged with aiding and abetting others to transfer more than $1 million in counterfeit obligations (postal money orders). This indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against both women March 5.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, Barwick-Majeski received counterfeit postal money orders from a source in Nigeria. She allegedly sent the money orders, along with instructions on how to be a secret shopper, to numerous victims across the country. The people who received the counterfeit money orders were to cash them and then wire part of the money back to her, the affidavit says. However, the money orders were eventually returned against the victims' account as not negotiable, and the victims were obligated to pay their banks for most of the money they wired to Majeski and others. Barwick-Majeski allegedly kept a portion of the money she received and wired the remaining amount to individuals in Nigeria.

During the course of the investigation, the affidavit says, law enforcement officers seized more than $1.7 million worth of counterfeit postal money orders. Some of those counterfeit money orders were taken directly from Barwick-Majeski or Peebles, and some were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection or intercepted en route to Barwick-Majeski or Peebles.

Law enforcement officers also executed a search warrant at Barwick-Majeski's residence Nov. 5, 2013. During this search they seized a parcel that contained 354 counterfeit BMO-Harris Bank cashier's checks with a total face value of more than $1 million. According to the affidavit, law enforcement officers also seized $406,800 in counterfeit Mid Missouri Credit Union cashier's checks during the investigation.

The affidavit also states that a large number of counterfeit money orders totaling at least $212,708 were cashed by 137 victims. This remains an active and ongoing investigation.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.