Woman from Henrico-based company pleads guilty to fraud

A local woman recently pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Memphis, Tenn., to two counts of mail and wire fraud.  Mary Ann Smith, 42, had served as the vice president of marketing for International Business Network (IBN), formerly based at Paragon Place in western Henrico County. 

Information provided by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in Central Virginia contributed to her arrest last year on charges that she had preyed on individuals seeking to obtain student visas. It followed a year-long investigation by the BBB and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

In February 2009, Smith sent emails to two residents of the Memphis area, describing a nonexistent student visa program in which the U.S. government supposedly exchanged students with foreign countries on a one-for-one basis. Smith falsely told her Memphis victims that their relatives could obtain student visas and that, five years after the victims' relatives obtained those visas, the visa holders could become legal, permanent residents.

Smith advised them that her services would cost $6,480 per applicant and that the processing time would take six to eight months. After receiving $25,920 from the victims, Smith persuaded each to sign contracts to "sponsor" four of their relatives.

At her guilty-plea hearing, Smith admitted using a “spoofing” service that allowed her to alter her voice on phone calls and make it appear that those calls originated from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.

Although Smith pled guilty to only two counts, all of the charged conduct will be taken into account as relevant conduct at

Smith's sentencing, scheduled for Sept. 21. In addition, Smith agreed to disclose the existence of and forfeit any assets derived from her crime. 

 “We’re delighted that we could assist law enforcement in shutting down this scam artist,” said Tom Gallagher, the BBB’s president and CEO.  He said his staff routinely works very closely with police from various jurisdictions in investigating scams.

Reynolds CC to host sculptor Paul DiPasquale

Reynolds Community College will host Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale Sept. 28 as he shares his presentation “Art Talk, Why Art Matters” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Conference Center Gallery of the Workforce Development and Conference Center on the Parham Road Campus, located at 1651 E. Parham Road in Richmond. This event is free and open to the public. > Read more.

Free children’s clothing for those in need

The Children's Clothing Closet at Highland Springs United Methodist Church will be open Saturday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 30 to provide free new or nearly new children's clothing for families in need, prior to the start of the school year. The Clothing Closet will be open from 10 a.m. to noon both days. The church is located at 22 North Holly Avenue. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10

Beautiful fall weather is back this weekend! Don’t leave your favorite pooch at home – take the whole family to Canine Companions’ DogFest Walk ‘n Roll at West Broad Village or FETCH a Cure’s annual Mutt Strutt at Deep Run Park. Pets are also welcome at this weekend’s Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games. Halloween events taking place Sunday include the University of Richmond’s 18th annual Trick or Treat Street and Goblins and Gourds at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.


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The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. at the E. Bruce Heilman Dining Center at the University of Richmond. Each meeting features breakfast and an interesting speaker. For details, call Pete Sizemore at 288-0999. Full text

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