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Dover man sentenced four years in prison for stealing $243k from a Nether Providence widow

James Grant Wagner

Media, PA -- Today Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland announced that James Grant Wagner, 49, of Dover, Delaware, was sentenced in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to four years in prison followed by three years’ supervised release, and was ordered to pay $314,450 in restitution. Under the guise of an investment opportunity through a business deal for energy contracts, the defendant transferred large sums of the victim’s money to himself, stealing money from her savings and her deceased husband's estate. The sentencing came after James Grant Wagner, 49, of the 100 block of Old Mill Road, Dover, Delaware, pleaded guilty to a criminal information
charging him with two counts of wire fraud.

The investigation was conducted by Detectives Daniel A. McFarland and Timothy Deery of the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Economic Crime Unit and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Edward Conway. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Rotella.

In June 2017, a resident of Nether Providence, Delaware County, filed a police report regarding James Grant Wagner for committing a theft. She explained that she has known Wagner since 2010, as he was the live-in boyfriend of her niece. The victim described Wagner as a very charismatic individual who was looked upon as a member of the family. The victim related that when her husband died in April 2013, Wagner offered to help her. The victim had a significant amount of money in her savings account and as part of her husband's estate after his death. The defendant, Wagner, approached the victim in June of 2013, and introduced the idea of investing her money, rather than having her assets remain in savings accounts. He advised that he had established an energy company called My Energy Expert, LLC, which he claimed was a private energy distribution company that purchased energy contracts and provided energy customers with new ways of purchasing their electric and gas service. Wagner presented this to the victim as an investment opportunity and advised that all she had to do was invest her own money, and he would handle the day-to-day operations of the business.

In reality, My Energy Expert was not a registered company, did not provide energy services or products of any kind, had no customers, and was a fictitious company created by Wagner to use in his scheme to defraud the victim. As part of his scheme, Wagner induced the victim to invest money in his company as his partner and provided the victim with false documentation regarding the company, fake lists of customers and spreadsheets documenting purported contracts, falsified purchase costs to acquire existing energy contracts for new “customers,” and falsified commission sheets listing payments due to Wagner.

According to the victim, she believed that Wagner was a legitimate business person, and was grateful for his consideration in wanting to further her financial portfolio. This time period in her life continued to be very stressful with the recent passing of her husband, and she relied upon Wagner to be a stabilizing force in her life. Over the course of the next two years, the victim continued to invest in Wagner’s non-existent company. By February 2017, the victim had not received any return on her investment. Wagner claimed that the "customers" were still being acquired, and the money would be returning to her shortly. By the end of February 2017, the victim was aggressively seeking her money to be returned to her in full and, in the alternative, asked Wagner to show her where the money was being invested. It was during this time, that Wagner stated to her that all the current contracts acquired were going to be sold to another business. He advised that her investment money would be returned to her in full or for an even larger return on her investment. These conversations continued for several days with no results.

Through the course of the investigation and a review of Wagner's accounts, it was determined that all money coming into Wagner’s account was from wire transfers from the victim’s bank account. Essentially, Wagner was living off money transferred to him from the victim, under the guise of the business deal for the energy contracts. From June 2013 until July 2015, as part and parcel of this scheme, James Wagner defrauded the victim out of $243,950. Further investigation by the FBI revealed that this was not the only scheme Wagner had devised to steal money. From August 2015 until November 2016, Wagner induced yet another victim to disburse money from her IRA accounts through false pretenses claiming the monies were being used to purchase real estate.

“The defendant in this case preyed upon a vulnerable, grieving widow, who trusted him as a close family friend. His actions are despicable and abhorrent,” said District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland. “Individuals like Mr. Wagner, who take advantage of their positions and of vulnerable members of our community, will be held accountable for their actions and the sentence imposed should send a clear signal to those who abuse their positions of trust and power. I would like to commend CID Detectives Daniel McFarland and Timothy Deery along with FBI Special Agent Edward Conway for their work on this complicated case, and to commend Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Rotella who brought justice to the victim and her family.”

“The defendant was motivated by pure greed, and we are glad that he has been brought to justice,” said United States Attorney William M. McSwain. “This successful prosecution would not have been possible without federal and Delaware County authorities working together. Thank you to District Attorney Katayoun Copeland, CID Detectives Daniel McFarland and Timothy Deery, FBI Special Agent Edward Conway, and AUSA Michelle Rotella for their hard work and determination in this case.”

OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY
DELAWARE COUNTY COURTHOUSE
MEDIA, PENNSYLVANIA 19063
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610-891-4161

KATAYOUN M. COPELAND, DISTRICT ATTORNEY
JOSEPH A. RYAN, CHIEF OF DETECTIVES

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT PERSON: Emily H. Harris, 610.891.4252