Woman conned victim of $400,000 in phony land deal. The sentence could be 30 years.

A Pulaski County woman conned a couple out more than $400,000 with a scheme involving a fake property transaction, according to a charge filed in federal court.

Mitzi Shawn Sears, of Nancy, pleaded guilty Friday to financial institution fraud, U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan announced.

In late 2009, Sears convinced someone they should buy property together as an investment. Court records identified the victims only by their initials — M.N. and his wife, L.N.

Sears told M.N. that the property was tied up in a lawsuit and that he needed to put up money to pay lawyers and others to finish the deal, according to a court document.

There wasn’t any property deal or a lawsuit, but Sears strung M.N. along for years, posing as other people in telephone calls to convince him the deal and litigation were real.

Sears also drafted fake emails to the victim, according to the court record.

M.N. and his wife wrote numerous checks to Sears or her associates, and also wrote checks for cash that Sears received.

In addition, Sears forged 16 checks on M.N.’s account.

Sears asked M.N. for more money in August 2014, but he didn’t have enough money to give her, so he took out a $40,000 loan from Citizens National Bank in Somerset and give the money to Sears, according to a court document.

Over the course of the scheme from late 2009 through July 2018, Sears got a total of $455,977 from M.N.’s accounts, not counting the loan proceeds, she admitted.

M.N. and his wife also have had to pay interest and fees and on the loan.

The total restitution in the case is would $502,780.10, according to Sears’ plea deal. She agreed to forfeit property and a mobile home valued at $70,000 in total as part of her plea.

Sears, 49, faces up to 30 years in prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Court records did not provide any details about Sears’ victims.

However, Duncan said in a news release that the case was an example of the commitment by authorities to combat financial exploitation of elderly people.