In 2018, Keisha Williams, a 43-year-old Virginia woman, pleaded guilty to multiple criminal charges stemming from a multimillion-dollar scam that saw her bilk dozens of investors out of over $5.4 million for a fake business opportunity.
Williams built a network of more than 50 investors by promising to double their money through a business opportunity in the burgeoning market of telemedicine, which is expected to be worth $64 billion by 2025.
But instead of launching what she promised would be a lucrative health-care software business with the money she got from her victims — who included an elderly cancer survivor, a recent widow and a special needs teacher — Williams spent nearly all of it on herself in ways that a federal judge would later describe as “appalling.”
Williams, whose scam is the subject of a recent episode of CNBC’s “American Greed,” spent roughly $1 million on trips to far-flung locales such as Brazil, Tahiti and Thailand, according to court documents.
“She would rent the largest villas on the island. She brought a personal chef with her [on trips]. And, she traveled in style,” Grace Hill, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Virginia, told CNBC about Williams’ lavish jet-setting habits.
Williams and her girlfriend stayed in a cabana with four butlers at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the Bahamas and at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria in Italy, where she reportedly complained to employees that the Mercedes-Benz the hotel provided to pick her up was “too small” and did not match her “vision of luxury,” according to court documents reviewed by The Washington Post.
She also bragged to a friend via text message about a trip to Bora Bora, where she claimed to “have the biggest Villa on the island.”
Even in the U.S., Williams was spending lavishly, racking up roughly $150,000 in hotel stays in the Virginia and Washington, D.C. area, including suites at the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons. Traveling around the country, she sometimes stayed in $4,000-per-night suites in cities such as Palm Beach, Florida, according to federal officials.
Court documents show that Williams spent another $1 million on expensive clothing and accessories from high-end stores such as Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
After the who The Washington Post noted that Williams showed up to court during her eventual criminal trial carrying an $1,800 Bottega Veneta portfolio that she bought with her victims’ money, and which a federal judge later ordered her to surrender along with other items that included multiple luxury watches.
Williams was caught in 2018 after several victims reached out to authorities and the FBI set up a sting with an agent posing as a wealthy investor who discussed the possibility of investing $12 million with Williams’ consulting firm.
California businessman Christian D’Andrade, who Williams had convinced to partner with her and who put up $1.4 million of his own money, was charged with wire fraud as her co-conspirator after he admitted to lying to some investors about how quickly they could expect to see a return on their investments, The Washington Post reported.
D’Andrade and three other indicted co-conspirators, who all told federal officials that Williams had duped them into aiding her scam, were sentenced to probation for their roles in the scheme.
In January 2019, Williams was sentenced to over 15 years in prison. Williams and two co-conspirators were also ordered to pay over $5.3 million in restitution to her victims. At the time, she told a federal judge: “I believe I am a good person who made some bad choices,” and quoted the bible, according to The Washington Post.
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