Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Iona K Coates (67, Orange Park) has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Coates faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and payment of restitution to the victims in the case.
According to court documents, in 2020, Coates met two individuals online through a dating website. She subsequently provided both individuals with her bank account information and began receiving money into her account. Coates then facilitated the movement of the money from her account to unknown individuals. In December 2020, the United States Secret Service (USSS) met with Coates and explained she was acting as a “money mule” in an online romance scheme. As part of the scheme, criminals acting as fake suitors on dating websites developed relationships and convinced victims to send money to Coates’s bank account. Coates, in turn, sent the money to criminals.
The USSS met with Coates and advised her to cease participation in the scheme, as the criminals were using her bank account to facilitate stealing money from the victims. After the meeting and advice for her to stop, Coates continued to facilitate the criminal activity. Between December 2020 through September 2021, she received $229,376.26 into her bank accounts from victims targeted in the online romance scheme.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service – Jacksonville Field Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin C. Frein.