Sentencing today for Antelope Valley woman in “Cocoon” elderly fraud scheme
LOS ANGELES >> An Antelope Valley woman faces up to five years in federal prison when she is sentenced today for her role in a scheme that held out the false promise of roles in bogus remakes of the movies “Cocoon” and “On Golden Pond” as bait in an identity-theft scam targeting senior citizens.
Dena Buttram of Littlerock, 33 — who also uses the last name Peterman — pleaded guilty last year to a count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Buttram admitted in a plea agreement filed in Los Angeles federal court to using stolen Social Security numbers and other personal data in an effort to defraud the state’s unemployment insurance program out of nearly $300,000 over the course of two years.
The defendant targeted senior citizens in the Southland and elsewhere as part of the scam, obtaining their personal information by promising an opportunity to be cast in movie remakes, court documents show.
To further the scheme, Buttram and others created bogus companies supposedly related to the movie industry with names such as Nine Maids Movie Production, Western Film Animation and High Desert Productions.
Using the stolen personal data, a co-conspirator filed fictitious wage reports with the California Employment Development Department and then fraudulently sought unemployment insurance benefits for the people who supposedly worked for the movie companies, according to prosecutors.
The EDD subsequently provided unemployment insurance benefits in the names of these individuals through debit cards that were mailed to addresses that Buttram or her co-conspirators controlled, officials said.
As a result of the scheme, Buttram sought more than $290,000 in unemployment insurance benefits, and the EDD suffered losses of roughly $220,000, federal prosecutors said.