Washington, DC - An indictment charging a District of Columbia man and Connecticut woman with perpetrating an advance fee and investment fraud scheme that defrauded more than 20 victims of more than $2 million was unsealed today in the District of Columbia.

According to court documents, Paul Maucha, 56, of Washington, D.C., and Melisa Shapiro, 63, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, conspired to engage in a scheme through a shell company they controlled, American Eagle Services Group (AESG), to make numerous misrepresentations about AESG, its assets and its access to money and capital.

As alleged in the indictment, Maucha and Shapiro enriched themselves by falsely promising to provide victims with financing, surety bonds and investing opportunities through AESG and AESG related entities in exchange for advance fees. Maucha and Shapiro falsely claimed that AESG could make multimillion-dollar loans to victims and would convince the victims to pay a refundable “commitment fee” or “due diligence deposit” before the loans would be made. Because Maucha and Shapiro themselves spent the fees paid by the victims, they did not have the funds to issue refunds when they failed to fund the promised loans.

In addition, Maucha and Shapiro induced victims to give AESG money for placement in a high-yield investment program and then misappropriated large portions of the victims’ investments. Maucha and Shapiro also borrowed funds from at least one victim based on false representations about how the funds would be used and AESG’s ability to repay. Maucha and Shapiro concealed their scheme by lulling victims with false assurances about their promised financial services, AESG’s access to capital, and AESG’s ability to provide refunds.

Maucha and Shapiro are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud and two counts of engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property. If convicted, Maucha and Shapiro each face a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison for the conspiracy and wire fraud counts and up to 10 years for each count of engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips for the District of Columbia; and Special Agent in Charge J. Chris Hacker of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI is investigating the case.

Assistant Chief William E. Johnston and Trial Attorney Kyle W. Maurer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Rothstein for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.