Fort Myers, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Diane Durbon and Brittany Lukasik, both of Cape Coral, today pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Lukasik also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return. Durbon and Lukasik each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and Lukasik also faces a maximum penalty of 3 years’ imprisonment for filing a false tax return. As part of their guilty pleas, Durbon and Lukasik have agreed to forfeit a 2016 Nissan Rogue, 2020 Kia Sorento, real property in Cape Coral, and approximately $542,760.23, which are traceable to proceeds of the offenses.
According to the plea agreement, Durbon and her daughter, Lukasik, a registered nurse, were first hired in approximately 2016 to be caretakers for T.H., the 92-year-old victim. In October 2017, Durbon began unlawfully accessing T.H.’s investment accounts. To unlawfully gain access to the investment accounts, Durbon would place T.H. on the phone to answer various account security questions. Video surveillance cameras that Durbon had installed inside T.H.’s home captured Durbon putting a script that contained answers to account security questions in front of T.H. before and during each phone call.
After being given authorization to speak to the investment account representative on T.H.’s behalf, Durbon would move funds from T.H.’s investment accounts into a Prime Money Market Account (PMMA) that also functioned as a checking account. After transferring the funds, checks were unlawfully issued to Lukasik, ranging in amounts from $1,000 to $9,600, which were deposited into bank accounts that Lukasik controlled and maintained. Between November 2017 and July 2019, approximately $231,659 in checks were issued to Lukasik from T.H.’s PMMA account.
Beginning in approximately November 2018, Durbon also unlawfully gained access to T.H.’s annuity policy, similarly to how she had unlawfully gained access to T.H.’s investment accounts. In January 2019, Durbon faxed a fraudulent Annuity Withdrawal form which misrepresented that T.H. wanted to cash out her annuity policy. This caused the annuity company to issue a check to T.H. in the amount of $244,521.09. The check was deposited into one of T.H.’s checking accounts. After the check was deposited, approximately 92 checks, totaling $372,092.98, were issued to Lukasik from T.H.’s checking account between February 2019 and March 2020. The checks were deposited into bank accounts that Lukasik controlled and maintained. Moreover, Lukasik failed to report receipt of any of T.H.’s funds in her 2019 tax return.
In total, between January 2019 and March 2020, approximately $542,760.23 in fraudulently obtained funds were deposited into Lukasik’s accounts. After the funds were deposited, Lukasik and Durbon used the funds to pay off debt and make a variety of purchases. Those purchases included paying $26,354.05 for a 2018 Nissan Rogue, $17,735.17 to pay off a car loan, more than $29,000 to pay student loan debt, and more than $100,000 in credit card payments. Lukasik and Durbon also used the funds to purchase a duplex in Cape Coral, and more than $100,000 of the fraudulently obtained proceeds were used to buy electronics, furniture, and to remodel the duplex.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Lee County Sherriff’s Office, and the IRS – Criminal Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Trent Reichling.