Hudson Falls plumbing company owner admits using customer information to scam

ALBANY — The co-owner of a Washington County plumbing business pleaded guilty Wednesday to defrauding two banks of a total of $133,000 by using her customers’ personal information to set up fake lines of credit that she charged to line their pockets.

Renee Burnell, 49, of Hudson Falls, admitted in U.S. District Court in Albany to defrauding Synchrony Bank and The Bank of Missouri in 2019 and 2020. Burnell “knowingly submitted false and fraudulent consumer credit applications “to banks ‘on behalf of clients of the defendant’s business for services that were not rendered and thereby fraudulently obtained payments,’ according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors in Albany said Burnell’s scam cost Bank of Missouri $119,264 and Synchrony Bank $13,912.

On Wednesday, Burnell pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated impersonation before U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn. She faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence for the aggravated identity theft charge, which would be consecutive to any other time. His prison term will be affected by federal sentencing guidelines.

Burnell admitted that in 2019 she submitted 23 fraudulent charges to Synchrony on behalf of 19 clients. The bank approved and funded five of the charges for $13,912. In addition, Burnell submitted 21 bogus online consumer credit applications to the Bank of Missouri on behalf of clients — none of whom had authorized Burnell’s use of their names, social security numbers and dates of birth. , Burnell’s plea agreement said.

Burnell created fake email addresses on behalf of customers. Ten of the requests were accepted. The others were rejected. the plea agreement says.

She paid the Bank of Missouri $4,794.57, “allegedly on behalf of her clients,” the plea agreement says. She must pay a total of $133,176 in restitution to the banks under the plea agreement. Burnell agreed not to appeal any sentences of 45 months or less.

Burnell’s email has been listed as the contact for Burnell’s plumbing and heating on Main Street in Hudson Falls. She is a co-owner of the business; neither she nor any other party has been charged or accused of wrongdoing. The company’s website states that the business is family owned and operated.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander P. Wentworth-Ping prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI.

Burnell was represented by First Deputy Federal Public Defender Paul Evangelista.

The sentencing will take place in January.