A married Maquoketa woman who faked a pregnancy to swindle $95,850 from a man will spend 18 months in prison.Pretty outrageous, but not as illegal as you think. Robert Franklin comments:
Johna Loreen Vandermore, 34, was sentenced to prison by U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Rose on Friday, and was also ordered to pay back the money she took from the victim. Vandermore pleaded guilty to mail fraud in December. ...
In a sentencing brief, Vandermore's defense attorney wrote that the Maquoketa woman initially really did believe she was pregnant and sought the first payments to help with birth expenses.
The scheme simply continued on its "own inertia" after Vandermore realized she wasn't pregnant, wrote defense attorney Donovan Robertson. The scheme could have been caught quicker if the man had tried to be more involved in his fake child's life, possibly by requesting an in-person visit, Robertson wrote.
But what’s most interesting about this case is the realization that, if we were to simply alter a couple of facts of the case, Vandermore’s behavior would have been entirely legal.This problem has a technology fix. Just require DNA tests before any payments.
First of course there would have had to have been an actual child. Although I don’t know the details of child support law in every state, my guess is that, in every one, if one person convinces another to pay support for a child who doesn’t exist, that person will at the very least be civilly liable and probably criminally so.
So the first message to future fraudsters is that there has to be a real flesh-and-blood child.
Vandermore’s second mistake was using the U.S. mail to accomplish her scheme. As I said before, using the mail to commit pretty much any crime makes it a federal offense that the FBI tends to take seriously. So, lesson number two is to have the payoffs made some other way. FedEx or UPS would do nicely.
So if Vandermore had just made those two elementary changes in her scheme to defraud, she’d have been home free. She could have had a child with her husband for example, and made some serious bank plus having her own child into the bargain.
All of that is because paternity fraud, unlike all other kinds of fraud, violates no law either criminal or civil in the overwhelming majority of states. To date, only six even recognize a civil cause of action for paternity fraud and none criminalizes the practice.