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Defendant has pending fraud cases in Missouri, Texas

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FARMINGTON — A Texas woman is accused of scamming a San Juan County woman out of $12,000 by pretending to be a male soldier in Africa while using a social messaging app to deceive the victim.

Pinima Godpower, 26, of Irving, Texas, is accused of a third-degree felony count of fraud (over $2,500 but not more than $20,000), according to the criminal complaint.

The defendant is accused of defrauding a woman of $12,000 through three wire transfers between Jan. 10, 2019, and Jan. 19, 2019, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Shellie Patscheck, Godpower's attorney, told The Daily Times her client maintains her innocence regarding the allegations.

"We believe the evidence will show that she was also used and victimized as part of a larger scam," Patscheck said.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office launched the investigation on Jan. 18, 2019.

A man contacted the agency about a large amount of money that had been wired out of his and his wife's checking account.

The wife was interviewed by a detective on Jan. 23, 2019, for additional information.

She told the detective about how a person later identified as Godpower had scammed her out of $12,000 earlier that month.

The woman stated she started to talk to a man in December 2018 on the social messaging app WeChat.

He claimed to be a soldier in Africa, who found a box with a large amount of money inside and wanted to send it to the woman because he had no one in the United States to send it to.

The "soldier" told the woman she could keep a portion of the funds and hold the rest of the money until he arrived in the country.

The woman said the man needed her to wire money in order for the box to be released because it was being held at the Canadian border, according to court documents.

She added she sent $2,000 then two transfers of $5,000 to the "soldier."

The victim's bank was contacted, which provided the detective with copies of the outgoing wire transfers and requests for the funds to be returned.

During the investigation, the detective learned the money was transferred to accounts connected to Godpower.

The detective contacted the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and learned Godpower has been in the United States on a student visa from Nigeria.

Some of the funds were transferred to three different people in Nigeria, according to court documents.

Godpower spoke to the detective on April 3, 2019. She admitted to receiving the wire transfers then hung up the phone when asked about transferring the money internationally.

The detective spoke to an Irving Police Department detective on April 29 about the investigation.

The Irving detective said Godpower is a suspect in two other fraud cases in Kansas City, Missouri and Houston, Texas, according to the affidavit.

A Kansas City man sent Godpower a $2,500 cashier's check. An elderly Houston woman sent Godpower $6,500.

Court documents did not have additional information on the other pending cases.

The defendant was booked and released on the night of March 5 from the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, according to jail records.

Her preliminary hearing is set for the morning of April 16 in Aztec Magistrate Court.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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