Rush City woman pleads guilty to $1.8 million mail fraud scheme

A Rush City woman has pleaded guilty to mail fraud after participating in multiple schemes that defrauded individuals throughout the United States.

Gayle Joyce Ferngren, 69, pleaded guilty today to one count of mail fraud, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Court documents state that from 2017 through April 2022, Ferngren and others participated in a scheme to launder money gained fraudulently from victims throughout the United States, including funds from romance fraud scams and efforts to defraud Federal Pandemic Assistance Programs.

According to Ferngren’s guilty plea, she received at least 68 debit cards with about $1.3 million in fraudulent unemployment benefits from California and Nevada from June 2020 through December 2020.

After receiving the money, Ferngren kept part of it for herself and sent most of the funds to other people involved in the scheme, including people located overseas. In total, Ferngren laundered at least $1.8 million in the fraud scheme.

Court records also state that on May 27, 2021, another person involved in the scheme submitted an application in Ferngren’s name involving a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of about $20,833.

The application claimed that Ferngren worked as an independent contractor doing residential remodeling since 2017 and also included false tax records and income claims. Ferngren did not sign or fill out the information on the application, according to court documents. 

The fraudulent PPP loan application was approved, and approximately $20,833 was deposited into Ferngren’s bank account in May 2021, which she knew she was not entitled to.

This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Department of Labor–Office of Inspector General, and the FBI.

The sentencing for Ferngren will be scheduled at a later time.