Winhall woman found guilty of bank fraud
BURLINGTON — A Winhall woman, who officials say was involved in obtaining $1.6 million in bogus loans at five financial institutions, including the Bank of Bennington, was found guilty in U.S. District Court in Burlington on three felony charges on Tuesday afternoon.
Alison Gu, 41, of Old Snow Valley Road was convicted for committing bank fraud between 2013 and 2015; making a false statement on a U.S. Passport application in St. Albans in March 2015 and for aggravated identity theft in March 2015.
Gu used the Social Security numbers and dates of birth of two young children that had been killed including one gunned down in California many years ago, court papers show.
The mother of three, who has been free on conditions, was taken into custody by the U. S. Marshal Service pending her sentencing. It will be scheduled in about four months.
The jury deliberated almost two hours following the one week trial before Chief Federal Judge Christina Reiss.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Doyle, in his closing arguments, walked jurors through the elaborate maze that Gu attempted to use to hide her identity and to obtain bank loans.
"One person, two identities, three crimes," Doyle said as he began his one-hour summation.
"She is very good at gaming the system," Doyle told the jury of seven women and five men. He wove a story that showed Gu got tripped up because she could not keep her stories straight.
The indictment said Gu devised and executed a scheme to defraud Bank of Bennington, First National Bank of America, Prime Lending, Discover Home Loans, and Emigrant Mortgage Company to obtain funds by submitting mortgage loan applications containing false information.
One of the homes, financed through the Bank of Bennington, is at 389 Read Farm Road in Dorset, records show.
The Bank of Bennington started foreclosure proceedings on Dorset home. Doyle said testimony showed that Gu showed up two weeks ago to try to buy back the property by making a $10,000 deposit.
Gu, who has at least nine listed aliases in the federal indictment, took the stand in her own defense. Also testifying for her was her father, Zhi Min "Jimmy" Gu and two notary publics.
Defense lawyer Lisa Shelkrot attempted in her closing statement to show there was reasonable doubt.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dresser offered a rebuttal maintaining the government had proven its case on all three counts. Dresser and Doyle called 30 witnesses to make the case.
Doyle noted that Gu went into the New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicle offices in both Nashua and Manchester on Feb. 20, 2015 and obtained drivers licenses under two names. For one photo she had her hair up, while she had it down for the other.
Doyle said Gu on the stand tried to explain away all the evidence that pointed to her, but it was more false information.
He said she also ordered four fake identification cards showing she was at Johnson State College, including as a professor and a student.
"It's fake," Doyle quoted a Johnson State Security Officer from his testimony.
The indictment specified the false information included misrepresenting Gu's identity, and altering bank statements.
A co-defendant, Matthew Abel, 45, a Montpelier native, pleaded guilty to the bank fraud count last month. The Montpelier native, who is awaiting sentencing, is listed in court papers as Gu's boyfriend.
Abel and Gu had shared homes in Winhall and in Cheshire, Conn., where authorities say they found substantial incriminating evidence during a raid in June 2016.
Doyle held up two embossing seals that belonged to out of state judges that were found in the Connecticut home. The false drivers licenses, other bogus records and credit cards were seized.
Judge Reiss is still to determine which homes will be forfeited in the case. Just before closing arguments, Gu and her attorney agreed that Reiss and not the jury could decide the fate of the homes that she may have a financial interest.
Abel's defense lawyer, Craig Nolan, has said he believes that once the final accounting is completed the banks will have no losses because of the value of the properties and the collateral used for the loans.
One false identity Gu assumed belonged to a girl killed in a mass shooting outside a Stockton, Calif. school in January 1989, court records show. The girl was one of five children killed, while 30 other students and teachers were wounded before the gunman turned the gun on himself, Special Agent Ryan Renart of the Diplomatic Security Services in St. Albans wrote in court papers.
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