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Mahwah Woman Gets 3 Years In Federal Prison For $4M Investment Scam

Outside the Martin Luther King U.S. District Courthouse in Newark
Outside the Martin Luther King U.S. District Courthouse in Newark Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT

MAHWAH, N.J. – A Mahwah woman was sentenced Friday to 36 months in prison for pretending to be an employee of the United States in order to defraud investors out of $4 million.

Sara Rong Liu, 54, was president of Westone Inc., a company purportedly involved in the wholesale distribution of textiles and interior design, when she told investors it had been awarded a $156.6 million contract by the New York City Department of Design and Construction Fund.

Liu also told them "there was a problem with the fictitious contract that required Westone to pay certain fees before the NYC DDC would release contract payments to the defendant and her company," U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.

To support the bogus claims, Liu created phony documents that appeared to come from the DDC, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the U.S. Treasury Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

"She characterized the funds as short-term loans, which would be repaid immediately upon the release of the first contract payment of $52.2 million from the NYC DDC," Fishman said.

In turn, she collected more than $4 million from the victims.

U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton ordered Liu to repay the money to serve a year of supervised release after she's released from federal prison.

Fishman credited the FBI and U.S. Treasury agencies with the investigation. Representing the government are Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gurbir Grewal and Lakshmi Srinivasan Herman of his Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

Liu pleaded guilty to "falsely assuming or pretending to be an employee of the United States and obtaining money as a result of her impersonation" in exchange for the sentence, Fishman said.

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