BECKLEY, W.Va. — A Raleigh County pharmacist who convinced friends and family members to invest in two companies she created with her late husband pleaded guilty Monday to a pair of federal criminal counts.
Natalie Cochran, 39, of Daniels, pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud. She collected money from June 2017 to August 2019 for the companies Tactical Solutions Group and Technology Management Solutions. She claimed the companies were involved in government contracts. There were no contracts.
U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said Cochran, who worked in Shady Spring as a pharmacist, took the money and put it into her own bank account and spent it mainly on personal items. Some of the money was used to pay other investors who thought they were getting a return on their investments.
Stuart said he could have taken Cochran to trial on all 26 counts but was able to obtain just as much from the guilty pleas to two counts.
“It was a great deal for the taxpayers,” Stuart said at a Beckley news conference. “This is the right deal for the American people, for the people of West Virginia. It’s the right deal for her victims.”
Cochran has agreed to pay $2.6 million restitution to the victims of her scheme. She’ll also forfeit to the federal government items she purchased through the fraudulent activity. Stuart said the forfeiture is a key feature of the plea agreement.
“These are folks who lost an awful lot of money. Some may have lost their life savings due to these schemes and it’s unfortunate and tragic,” Stuart said. “I would have never agreed to this deal if not for the large amount of restitution.”
The items Cochran will forfeit include a 1965 Shelby Cobra, other vehicles, jewelry and $45,000 from her business’ bank account.
Cochran faces between 3-11 years in prison at her Jan. 4, 2021 sentencing hearing, Stuart said.
“Eleven years and three months is a pretty sizable period of time,” Stuart said. “Then you look at the waiving of her right of appeal, you look at the forfeiture accounts, then the $2.6 million restitution, it’s pretty significant. We drove a hard bargain.”
U.S. District Judge Frank Volk presided over Monday’s hearing.