United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg announced Friday the unsealing of a 26 count indictment, returned December 14, 2005, charging Lisa Camarillo Smith, 34, of Bryan, Texas, with 12 counts of mail fraud and 14 counts of wire fraud arising from a fraudulent "Genetic Research Program" investment scam.
Ms. Smith was taken into custody today by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the office of the United States Marshals Service in Houston. She is expected to make her initial appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge in Houston, Texas, today.
The indictment alleges that Smith was principally responsible for operating a scheme in which more than 160 investors were promised large returns on their investment for the purchase and later sale of cattle through a Genetic Research Grant Program allegedly sponsored by Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The total amount of cash invested in the scheme during its almost three years of operation was approximately $5.0 million.
According to allegations in the indictment, beginning in January 2000 and continuing through November 2003, Ms. Smith told investors she was a post-graduate student at Texas A&M University working on a Doctorate in Cattle Reproduction. She allegedly claimed that a genetic program funded by a grant from Texas A&M University, the King Ranch and three other Texas ranches, had been in operation since 1997. Ms. Smith told investors that they could participate in the research program by purchasing cattle through her at $600 per head from the four ranches. Research on the cattle would take approximately nine months, after which the cattle would be sold back to the ranches by Texas A&M University at the price of $1,000 per head. The $400 difference in purchase and sale price was to be paid by the University's grant program. Investors were promised this $400, less $100 retained by Ms. Smith for tax purposes, as a return on their investment. At that time, investors had the option to purchase additional cattle through her at the same amount of $600, effectively leaving their original investment in place, taking only the $300 profit or they could choose to "cash out" from the program, that is, receiving the $300 profit on each head and the invested principal ($600 per head). Investors signed contracts with Ms. Smith for the purchase of cattle. The United States mail or wire communications were used to send and receive letters and investment checks during the course of the scheme.
According to the indictment, Texas A&M University did not, in fact, sponsor a Genetic Research Program, the four Texas ranches, in fact, never sold any cattle to Ms. Smith for any purpose, and Ms. Smith was not enrolled in a Doctoral program at the University. It is alleged that Ms. Smith spent the investor's funds for her personal benefit.
Each count of the 26 counts of mail and wire fraud carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, and a $250,000 fine, upon conviction.
This case was investigated by the Bryan, Texas Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bryan, Texas Police Department, and the Brazos County District Attorney's Office. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Quincy Ollison.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.