An Alexandria lawyer was charged yesterday with a series of crimes including an alleged scheme to sell phony insurance charters through the Wall Street Journal.
A 15-count indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria charged Sheila A. McGough with conspiracy, wire fraud, perjury, receipt of stolen goods, obstruction of justice and witness intimidation.
"The indictment in this case alleges offenses which demonstrate a pattern of abuse of trust and of professional position," said U.S. Attorney Henry E. Hudson.
If convicted on all counts, McGough, who operates a law office at 216 S. Patrick St., faces a maximum sentence of 91 years in prison and fines in excess of $2.4 million, sources said. McGough, 48, who is expected to be arraigned on Aug. 27, could not be reached for comment.
The charges stem from a one-year FBI investigation focusing on McGough's relationship with Bob E. Bailes, who is serving a 25-year sentence on wire fraud and other charges.
Bailes is described in the 54-page indictment as an "unindicted co-conspirator" who had a long history of criminal activity, including convictions on charges ranging from writing a bad check to tax evasion. Federal prosecutors said yesterday that they do not expect to seek charges against Bailes because he is already serving a sentence for similar criminal activity.
According to the indictment, Bailes would advertise in the Wall Street Journal for the sale of "grandfathered" insurance companies and charters. According to the ads, the arrangement would allow their owners to operate nationwide "free from governmental regulation."
"In reality, these charters were forgeries created by Bailes to obtain money and property by false and fraudulent pretenses," the indictment said.
"It was further a part of the conspiracy that Sheila A. McGough . . . would provide legitimate cover or front for the illegal activities of . . . Bailes, permit him to operate out of her office, and provide assistance in obtaining funds from victims."
The indictment alleged that McGough, in her role as attorney, would advise prospective buyers that the companies and charters were legitimate.
More than $180,000 was obtained through the alleged scheme, according to court records.
The indictment also charged that McGough initiated "sham bankruptcy petitions," after Bailes was sentenced to prison, to continue the alleged scam.
The indictment said McGough tried to intimidate four witnesses by filing a $50 million lawsuit against them on behalf of Bailes after they were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury investigating her.