Phoenix woman sentenced to prison for defrauding local charities

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PHOENIX – On Dec. 19, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow sentenced Mary Frances Bauer, 64, to 33 months in prison with credit for time served, followed by 36 months of supervised release for the complex, serious and long-running fraud scheme she developed to inflict upon numerous local charities, including Wild at Heart, Liberty Wildlife and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Bauer was also ordered to pay between $1 million and $1.5 million in restitution to nearly two dozen victim organizations.

Bauer was indicted in September 2016 on 33 counts of wire fraud, 21 counts of promotional money laundering and five counts of aggravated identity theft.

Although the indictment focused on conduct between 2009 and 2014, a footnote in the government’s sentencing memorandum states, “[T]he offense conduct started at least five years earlier, when defendant began lying to Liberty Wildlife about fictitious donors in 2004, and continued through at least October 2016 (including during her pre-indictment discussions with the USAO), when victim Wild at Heart learned of defendant’s indictment and fired her upon discovering it too was a victim of defendant’s scheme.”

The sentencing memorandum expressed how Bauer’s conduct harmed the various organizations, worthy charities and populations they served and stated in addition to losing the money they paid Bauer, they lost opportunities.

It states, “At defendant’s urging, [these organizations] wasted significant time and effort pursuing fictitious donors when they could have been focusing on legitimate prospective donors. Defendant strung along several of these charities for years and years, promising them they would be getting millions of dollars if they just jumped through a few more hoops and held out a little longer.”

In recommending a 33-month prison sentence, the government stated it was warranted to reflect the significantly higher loss of nearly $1.5 million in Bauer’s case, which is near the top 15 percent of all fraud cases and well above the median loss amount of $137,828, while noting the average sentence for fraud is 22 months.

It stated, “The duration and complexity of defendant’s fraud, the significant loss amount, and the serious harm she inflicted on the victims all weigh in favor of a Guidelines sentence and against a variance.”

Ismael Nevarez Jr., special agent in charge of the Phoenix IRS-Criminal Investigation Field Office, stated “A prison sentence is very appropriate for someone who defrauded organizations dedicated to charitable causes and especially someone that took numerous steps to try to conceal her fraudulent activity.”

In June 2017, Bauer entered into a plea agreement, pleading guilty to a single count of wire fraud, a Class C felony offense.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, “Bauer defrauded nearly two dozen local and national charities out of more than a million dollars in consulting fees. Bauer held herself out as an experienced fundraiser who could help charities get large donations from wealthy philanthropists. Bauer falsely claimed that she and her employees and associates had special access to certain out-of-state donors who wanted to make large charitable gifts. Those donors did not exist. Bauer made up the fictitious donors, as well as fictitious employees and associates, and fabricated numerous documents to conceal her fraud and lull her victims into continuing to pay her large monthly fees. Bauer’s victims include charities dedicated to curing debilitating diseases, educating Arizona’s schoolchildren, and rehabilitating injured wildlife.”

Bauer, sole owner and operator of Fundraising Consultants, Ltd. (FRC), then used those “consulting fees” to both fund the fraud and pay her personal expenses.

The stated purpose of FRC, which was incorporated in 1997 with Bauer as president and director, was to match nonprofit organizations in need of funding with individuals and organizations seeking to provide philanthropic donations.

Bauer used a number of fictitious individuals, entities and trustees in the fraud as well as the name and email address of former co-worker George H., who resigned in 2006, to perpetuate her fraud.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange stated, “Frauds against charities are far-reaching because they hurt not only the organizations, but the people the charities seek to serve, and the persons who have given to support the cause. Our office will continue to aggressively prosecute anyone who targets charitable organizations.”

Bauer was ordered to self-surrender to serve her prison sentence at the institution designated by the Bureau of Prisons or U.S. Marshal by 12 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2018.

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