October 18, 2019

Ponzi scheme alleged in arrest of Raleigh County pharmacist

By  in News | September 26, 2019 at 12:07PM

BECKLEY, W.Va. — A Shady Spring pharmacist was arrested at home Thursday morning after being named in a 26-count federal indictment alleging that she ran a multi-million dollar ponzi scheme with her late husband.

According to a federal indictment, Natalie Cochran, 38, of Daniels, allegedly committed wire fraud, bank fraud, bankruptcy fraud, aggravated identity theft and other alleged crimes in the scheme in which Cochran collected money from family members, friends and other investors to help her two companies which she allegedly claimed were involved in government contracts.

Investigators allege Cochran lied about her companies getting the contracts and was never awarded any contracts from the federal government, though she was awarded two state contracts that later were voided for lack of performance.

MORE Read indictment here

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart held an afternoon news conference at the federal courthouse in Beckley to discuss the case.

“During the course of her fraudulent scheme, Cochran stole identification information from multiple individuals who were either employed by the federal government or the banking industry. She would then send investors e-mails that were purportedly from these individuals, in order to further her wire fraud and bank fraud scheme,” he said.

According to Stuart, Cochran used investor money to fund a lavish lifestyle, which included the purchase of jewelry, a classic car and several properties.

The indictment alleges Cochran defrauded 11 people of more than $2.5 million. She also allegedly lied to three financial institutions receiving lines of credit and allegedly committed bank fraud when getting bank loans. The indictment alleges she would use some of the money to pay off original investors in her scheme. She filed for bankruptcy in July and also allegedly lied on the bankruptcy forms.

During an initial hearing Thursday, prosecutors requested immediate detention of Cochran, meaning she could be held, indefinitely, pending a resolution of the case. The judge ordered Cochran placed on home confinement. It’s anticipated she’ll be in jail for a few days, allowing time for the home confinement provisions to be finalized.

Stuart argued against Cochran being released on her own recognizance. He said she was a flight risk given the money involved.

“A million dollars (has been spent) of the $2.5 million raised so there’s still $1.5 million out there,” Stuart said. “Anybody of this capability, an extremely smart individual, has the ability to flee prosecution.”

A detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judge Omar Aboulhosn has been continued until Monday. She’s being held in the Southern Regional Jail.

West Virginia State Police, the United States Secret Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the investigation.

Cochran could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Cochran’s name has also been associated with investigation into missing funds from a pair of youth sports leagues in Raleigh County.

The Feb. 11 death of Cochran’s husband, Michael Cochran, remains under investigation.

MetroNews reporter Pete Davis contributed to this story.