Podiatrist gets 2 years in prison for scam

LOS ANGELES - The founder of the Releford Foot and Ankle Institute has been sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for his conviction on federal fraud charges related to a bank fraud scheme that used stolen identities to cause two banks to suffer $3 million in losses.Dr. Bill Releford, 53, who resides in downtown Los Angeles, received the two-year sentence Monday afternoon from United States District Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. In addition to the prison term, Judge Hatter ordered Releford to pay $218,237 in restitution and a $10,000 fine. Releford pleaded guilty in May 2012 to participating in a scheme to defraud Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank, specifically admitting that he participated in the scheme to obtain money for his medical practice, which has offices in Beverly Hills and Inglewood. At Monday's sentencing hearing, Judge Hatter told Releford that if he was "man enough to do the crime," then he had to be "man enough to do the time." Judge Hatter noted Releford's attempts to rehabilitate himself-such as Releford's offer to immediately pay $1,500 in restitution and his recent participation in charitable projects-and said this effort spared Releford from a longer prison sentence. After obtaining stolen personal identifying information - including dates of birth, Social Security numbers, credit profiles, and driver's license numbers from victims with high credit scores, including another physician from Pasadena - members of the conspiracy submitted fraudulent applications for business lines of credit to various banks. Once the applications were approved, the defendants liquidated the credit lines. Over the course of the scheme, Releford helped the other defendants open at least two credit lines that provided funds for Releford's medical practice. Releford also attempted to open a third credit line valued at up to $500,000, which he planned to use to fund a clothing business. In total, the scheme caused more than $3 million in losses to Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The scheme used identities stolen from more than 70 individual victims.

********** Published: June 27, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 11