Lubova Burkute, aged 40, was indicted on June 17, 2021. She appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy on March 21, 2022, and pled not guilty to the Indictment. She was recently extradited from Norway to face the federal charge and forfeiture allegations in South Dakota.
According to the indictment, between 2015 and 2021, Burkute "conspired and agreed with others to knowingly conduct and attempt to conduct financial transactions affecting interstate and foreign commerce. Specifically, Burkute and her co-conspirators engaged in depositing, transferring, wiring, and withdrawing U.S. Currency, foreign currency, and funds at financial institutions, which involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity – wire fraud," a release from the Department of Justice said.
"Burkute and her co-conspirators knew that the transactions were designed in whole or in part to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the proceeds of the fraud scheme. While conducting and attempting to conduct such financial transactions, it is alleged that Burkute knew that the property involved in the financial transactions represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity. Burkute resided in and operated from Norway, among other places, she is a citizen of Latvia," it added.
The maximum penalty upon conviction is up to 20 years in custody and/or a $250,000 fine. Burkute is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. She was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending further proceedings and trial. A trial date of May 31, 2022, has been set.
The hearing comes soon after the conviction in another trial of U.S. citizen Nathan Peachey on similar charges. Peachey, like Burkute, was an official at 'Jericho Outreach Norway' and was convicted of fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice conspiracies, receiving a 25 year sentence.
According to the MinistryWatch website, Burkute is married to Lorin Rosier, another member of the same fraud ring.
"Mr. Nathan Peachey was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for preying on innocent victims. Peachey, along with his co-conspirators, ran a sophisticated scheme that robbed victims of their life savings, retirement income and other funds, for the sole purpose of enriching himself and his friends," said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher after the verdict.
The fraud involved the conspirators solicitiing money for what they said were charitable and humanitarian projects, usually with Christian religious trimmings.
According to court documents they told investors that their money "would be used for charitable or humanitarian projects, oftentimes using religion to entice and induce victims into investing money in the scheme. They also made promises that there would be a return on investments... Investor money was not used for charitable or for humanitarian projects, and investors never received a return on investments relating to the monies provided to Peachey, Winer, or their co-conspirators. The purpose of the conspiracy was to enrich the co-conspirators, all of whom amassed nearly $13 million, and then spent the fraud proceeds on a luxury residence located in a suburb of Oslo, Norway, renovation costs on the house, a Mercedes Benz, nearly $4 million in silver, travel, and personal expenses. This fraud scheme impacted victims from around the United States."