A woman who ran a Tustin company that was supposed to help clients with delinquent mortgages was sentenced Friday to three years in federal prison for cheating a group of nuns out of $285,000.
Linda Rose Gagnon, who was found guilty of three counts of wire fraud in November, was also ordered to pay $285,000 in restitution, although U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Guilford in Santa Ana may add to that if more evidence is produced showing related losses, according to prosecutors.
Gagnon, whose company was called Rose Enterprises Inc., discovered at the U.S. Province of the Religious of Jesus and Mary Inc. in Rhode Island that some nuns in the order were going to lose their home in San Diego because the owner had stopped making mortgage payments. The 59-year-old offered to help the nuns acquire the home outright, boasting she had $1 million to back up any deal.
But later, Gagnon showed the nuns a bogus letter that appeared to be from a California attorney, explaining she now needed $285,000 to seal the deal. The nuns wired her the money from their retirement account to purchase the property, but Gagnon used it instead on a personal pet-sitter, lingerie, car payments, crap from retail outlets and a lavish trip to San Francisco.
When the nuns grew suspicious of the deal, Gagnon stalled them with lies. The nuns then learned the home had been purchased at auction for $212,000 and informed Gagnon to pull their money out, that they'd negotiate with the buyer directly. That was in December 2008; by February 2009, all the nuns' money was gone, and they received an eviction notice.
Gagnon asked the nuns for another $280,000, claiming the $285k was "tied up in escrow." The nuns instead turned to other professionals who eventually acquired the property on the nuns' behalf for $255,000.
When the nuns grew tired of Gagnon's lies about getting the original amount refunded, they turned to the FBI.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Keenan sought a 57-month sentence for Gagnon, whose defense attorney argued for probation with 24 months of home detention.