The William Jefferson Chronicles

Prosecutors seek 20-year sentence for bond broker tied to Jefferson
01:04 PM CDT on Monday, April 13, 2009

Michael Kunzelman / The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Federal prosecutors are seeking a 20-year prison sentence for a woman convicted of participating in a money laundering scheme with a former Louisiana lawmaker.

A jury convicted Gwendolyn Moyo last year of charges she sold millions of dollars in bogus construction bonds and conspired with former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd to launder proceeds of her illegal insurance business.

Gwendolyn Moyo in an artist rendering during a trial.

Federal sentencing guidelines call for Moyo to serve up to 15 years in prison, but a memo filed Friday by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office argues that she deserves a harsher sentence due to the scope of the scheme and her criminal record.

Moyo, 53, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who isn't bound by the sentencing guidelines or prosecutors' request.

In his memo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Kennedy notes Moyo "has a long and storied history of fraudulent activity" that includes felony convictions for a similar scheme in Arizona in 1989.

"After serving a prior federal sentence for defrauding numerous contractors in a construction bond scam, Moyo almost immediately returned to the same fraudulent activity," Kennedy wrote, noting that Moyo was convicted in 1991 of using a false social security number to bilk American Express out of about $120,000.

In the Louisiana case, Moyo targeted minority contractors and small business owners "knowing that they were the least likely to question her activities due to their need to obtain bonds to be able to compete in the marketplace," Kennedy added.

Moyo isn't a lawyer but represented herself during her trial in October 2008. A lawyer who served as her "standby" counsel didn't immediately return a call for comment Monday.

During her trial, Moyo claimed she was caught in the middle of a government plot to bring down former Rep. William Jefferson and his sister, New Orleans tax assessor Betty Jefferson, who were identified as unindicted co-conspirators in the case.

William Jefferson, who is awaiting a trial in Virginia for separate corruption charges, allegedly steered Moyo to Shepherd as a way to help Shepherd pay off his campaign debt.

Shepherd, who resigned from the Senate on the day he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge last year, has a May 27 sentencing date. Prosecutors haven't publicly recommended a sentence for him.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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