Destrehan resident Duane A. Dufrene, 55, is one of six men recently indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The other indicted men include Ryan Mullen, 41, of Jayess, Mississippi; Dillon Arceneaux, 31, of Marrero, Louisiana; Lance Vallo, 37, of Gueydan, Louisiana; Grant Menard, 35, of Kaplan, Louisiana; and Zeb Sartin, 35, of Lafayette, Louisiana.
The men were indicted on Aug. 26., as announced by U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans. An indictment only alleges that crimes have been committed, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
As charged in the indictment, Mullen and Dufrene conspired with Arceneaux, Vallo, Menard, and Sartin to use a number of shell Louisiana companies with no assets to defraud a merchant cash company based in Georgia.
“Mullen and Dufrene helped establish Arceneaux, Vallo, Menard, and Sartin as the owners of existing corporations. Mullen and Dufrene then created fake vendor accounts for the corporations, and Mullen, with the aid of another person, created falsified bank records for the companies,” a Department of Justice press release states. “Mullen then used an alias to hold himself out to be a broker for the companies he helped create.”
The DOJ document said that through the aid of another broker, Mullen supplied the victim merchant cash advance company with the fake vendor accounts and false bank records in order to obtain funding. The victim cash advance company approved the advances and began to electronically wire Arceneaux, Vallo, Menard, and Sartin millions of dollars in advances. Arceneaux, Vallo, Menard, and Sartin laundered a portion of the funds by paying Mullen and Dufrene percentages of the funds, the document states, and Arceneaux, Vallo, Menard, and Sartin then closed their non-existent businesses before fully repaying the victim merchant cash advance company, resulting in losses of approximately $6.4 million.
If convicted, the six men face a maximum sentence of five years on the wire fraud conspiracy, and a maximum sentence of up to 20 years on the money laundering conspiracy. Each defendant faces up to three years of supervised release, and up to a $250,000 fine on the wire fraud counts. For the money laundering counts, each defendant faces up to three years of supervised release and up to a $500,000 fine. Each count also has a mandatory special assessment fee of $100. A notice of fraud forfeiture filed by the government seeks to forfeit a number of Rolls Royces and Bentleys bought by Mullen.
Evans commended the special agents of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation for their handling of the matter. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Edward J. Rivera and Andre Lagarde.