Sioux Falls judge orders Latvian national to repay share of $12M after charity scam
Federal prosecutors say investors were led to believe their donations were for humanitarian purposes, but actually went toward a luxury home in Norway and purchases of silver.
SIOUX FALLS — A Latvian woman must repay a portion of $12 million to nearly two dozen Americans after taking part in a charity scam that actually helped her co-conspirators buy a luxury home, sports car and millions of dollars worth of silver in Norway.
U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier in Sioux Falls on Monday, Dec. 19, ordered Lubova Burkute, 40, of Latvia, to repay a portion of $11,835,573 to 22 victims in the United States and self-deport from Norway after she pleaded guilty to engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity. The sentencing brings to a close an international charity scam that Burkute lent a hand in for roughly six years.
Federal prosecutors say that from 2015 until 2021, Burkute lent a hand to Nathan Peachey and John Winer to persuade dozens of investors to help fund charitable humanitarian projects. Peachey and Winer would use “religion or sovereign-citizen ideologies” to entice victims to donate money. In total, Peachey and Winer had amassed as much as $13 million.
While court documents refer to Burkute as a “minimal participant” in the process of soliciting the money from investors, federal prosecutors say she was responsible for depositing and wiring both U.S. and foreign currencies through American banks.
Ultimately, the group used the nearly $13 million in fraudulently obtained funds to purchase a luxury home in a suburb of Oslo, Norway, renovations to the home, a Mercedes Benz, nearly $4 million in silver as well as miscellaneous travel and personal expenses.
After Burkute was indicted in June 2021, she was arrested in Norway in November 2021. She spent roughly one year in a Norwegian jail while awaiting extradition. She was credited in U.S. District Court for that time in jail. Peachey and Winer, however, were sentenced to 300 months and 262 months in a U.S. federal prison, respectively.
In addition to the United States seizing the Norwegian home, Mercedes Benz and silver, Burkute, Peachey and Winer were found to be individually and severally responsible to repay the restitution ordered.
Burkute was released from U.S. custody and ordered to return to Latvia.