Fort Myers, Florida – U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Barber has sentenced Diane Durbon (58, Cape Coral) to 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Durbon’s daughter and co-defendant, Brittany Lukasik, was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and filing a false tax return. The court also ordered Durbon and Lukasik to forfeit their Cape Coral residence, two vehicles, and approximately $542,760.23, which are traceable to proceeds of the offense. Durbon and Lukasik had pleaded guilty on March 7, 2023.
According to court documents, in 2016, Durbon and Lukasik, a registered nurse, were hired as caretakers for T.H., the 92-year-old victim. In October 2017, Durbon began unlawfully accessing T.H.’s investment accounts. To unlawfully gain access to the investment accounts, Durbon placed T.H. on the phone to answer various account security questions. Video surveillance cameras that Durbon had installed inside T.H.’s home captured Durbon putting a script that contained answers to these security questions in front of T.H. before and during each phone call.
After being given authorization to speak to an account representative on T.H.’s behalf, Durbon then moved funds from T.H.’s investment accounts into a Prime Money Market Account (PMMA) that also functioned as a checking account. After transferring the funds, checks were unlawfully issued to Lukasik, ranging in amounts from $1,000 to $9,600, which were deposited into bank accounts that Lukasik controlled and maintained. Between November 2017 and July 2019, approximately $231,659 in checks were issued to Lukasik from T.H.’s PMMA account.
Also, beginning in approximately November 2018, Durbon unlawfully gained access to T.H.’s annuity policy, similarly to how she had unlawfully gained access to T.H.’s investment accounts. In January 2019, Durbon faxed a fraudulent Annuity Withdrawal form which misrepresented that T.H. wanted to cash out T.H.’s annuity policy. This caused the annuity to issue a check to T.H. in the amount of $244,521.09. The check was deposited into one of T.H.’s checking accounts. After the check was deposited, approximately 92 checks, totaling $372,092.98, were issued to Lukasik from T.H.’s checking account between February 2019 and March 2020. The checks were deposited into bank accounts that Lukasik controlled and maintained. Moreover, Lukasik failed to report receipt of any of T.H.’s monies in her 2019 tax return.
In total, between January 2019 and March 2020, approximately $542,700 in fraudulently obtained funds were deposited into Lukasik’s accounts. After the funds were deposited, Lukasik and Durbon used the funds to pay off debt and make a variety of purchases including paying $26,354.05 for a vehicle, $17,735.17 to pay off a car loan, more than $29,000 to pay student loan debt, and more than $100,000 in credit card payments. Lukasik and Durbon also used the funds to purchase a duplex in Cape Coral, and more than $100,000 of the fraudulently obtained proceeds were used to buy electronics, furniture, and to remodel the duplex.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Lee County Sherriff’s Office, and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Trent Reichling.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish, and other languages are available. More information about the department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage.