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Houston man pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud

Alvin Turner, 54, pleads guilty Wednesday before US magistrate judge

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HOUSTON – A man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud Wednesday before a U.S. magistrate judge, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas said.

Federal and local agents arrested three people in the Houston area on Sept. 30 who were involved in a nationwide six-year scheme that allegedly defrauded the relatives of federal inmates by falsely representing that they could obtain reductions in their relatives' sentences in exchange for the payment of cash and wire transfers of funds, according to information presented in court.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the payments were falsely represented to be for paying a network of confidential informants who would make undercover drug transactions under the direction of the courts and prosecutors, which would allow the inmates to ask the court for reductions of sentences for providing substantial assistance to the government under the federal rules of criminal procedure.

The indictment alleged the money was spent for the "personal benefit of the defendants and there was never any network of informants or undercover transactions," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

"Federal inmates do not have to pay for substantial assistance motions for reductions of sentences which normally only require information to be provided by such inmates against co-defendants as well as trial testimony," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a release.

The office said the Texas indictment alleged wire fraud and a conspiracy to commit wire fraud involving multiple people -- Alvin Warrick, 41, Colitha Bush, 36, Ronald B. Shepherd, 33, Alvin Turner, 54, and Larry Stephenson, 48. Turner pleaded guilty Wednesday.

Warrick, Bush and Shepherd were also the subject of an indictment from the Southern District of Florida also alleging wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas said. The indictments allege different victims in and around each district.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the scheme resulted in losses to inmate families of more than $4 million.

Turner was arrested in October and Stephenson surrendered in October. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Warrick is detained pending trial in Miami; and Bush, Shepherd, Turner and Stephenson are released on conditions.

The office said one person remains at large and is being sought by authorities.