A former Frederick couple who pleaded guilty in federal court this week to operating a scam in which they wrote fraudulent grant requests for companies or people who hired them each face 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Rosa Lee Brown, 53, and Allen Abraham McMillan, 57, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Brown and McMillan each face up to 20 years in prison and potential fine of up to $1.4 million at their sentencing scheduled for June 25, the release said.
The couple operated Grants Made Easy to provide grant-writing help to customers. Victims of the scam lost $724,250 between December 2006 and August 2008, prosecutors said.
Joseph Lewis, a federal public defender representing Brown, declined to comment on the case Thursday, citing the pending sentencing. But he said Brown and McMillan no longer live in Maryland.
An attorney for McMillan could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The couple’s company purported to help customers obtain grant money from government, nonprofit and corporate funds, and claimed to have helped clients get more than $60 million, prosecutors said.
On Dec. 11, 2006, McMillan opened an account for the company at a Bank of America branch in Frederick.
A testimonial that Grants Made Easy supplied to customers was connected to a company associated with Brown’s daughter, the release said.
Grants Made Easy made clients pay an advance that ranged from $1,000 to more than $100,000, depending on the amount of work that would be required, the release said.
To promote the company, Brown and McMillan attended seminars and conventions in places ranging from Solomon’s Island, Md., to Austin, Texas, to attract clients.
One of their clients, a police officer in Fresno, Calif., withdrew money from her savings and got advances on her credit card to pay the company $70,000 to try and secure a $3 million grant to start a business venture, the release said.
Prosecutors said that Brown and McMillan ignored calls and emails from customers asking about the progress of their projects.
One of the customers contacted the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, which notified the U.S. Postal Inspection Service whose investigators ultimately identified more than 30 people who had paid for the couple’s grant-writing services, the release said.
None of those customers had received a grant, and investigators found no evidence that either Brown or McMillan had made any effort to secure grants, other than depositing the money provided for the advances, the release said.