Pa. woman gets prison in Boston bridal show scam

AP News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2011 6:38 PM

A Pennsylvania woman who admitted cheating advertisers and exhibitors out of thousands of dollars through a fake Boston bridal show was sentenced Friday to nearly 5 1/2 years in prison.

Karen Tucker, 47, of Pittsburgh, also was ordered to pay $117,000 restitution to victims. She pleaded guilty in October to wire fraud and identity theft.

U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns rejected a request for leniency from Tucker's lawyer, who asked for a 3-year sentence.

Elaine Barker, who owns Paper Potpourri, a Haverhill business that specializes in custom-designed wedding invitations, said she was drawn in by a professional-looking website Tucker set up to lure exhibitors.

"I have been doing shows for 30 years and not once did I suspect that this was not a legitimate show," Barker said. She said she felt "violated and cheated" after sending Tucker $675 for an exhibit table and telling other wedding vendors about her, only to find out months later that there was no show.

Prosecutors described Tucker as a longtime con woman who conducted similar scams in Ohio, Florida, Maryland, Nevada and Texas.

Michael Shields, owner of a marble and granite company in Columbus, Ohio, said he drove 13 hours so he could be in court Friday for Tucker's sentencing.

"You personally looked me in the eye and took my money from my hand," Shields said, looking right at Tucker, wearing a blue prison suit as she sat next to her lawyer in court.

"I don't think five years is enough for you. I don't think you should come out for a while," he said.

Prosecutors said Tucker and an uncharged co-conspirator posed as representatives of a business known as The Boston 411, then led the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to believe they would hold an extravagant home and bridal show at the Hynes Convention Center.

The heavily promoted show promised exhibitors face time with thousands of pre-registered brides-to-be, though few were actually lined up. Prosecutors said Tucker and the other person collected fees in advance from exhibitors but used most of the money for personal expenses, including rent, restaurants and shopping trips to Walmart.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Gleason said Tucker has been in and out of jail for the last three decades, charged in various schemes, including one in which she claimed to work for Motown Records and persuaded a car rental agency to deliver two new rental cars for two singers.

Tucker's lawyer, Brad Bailey, said his client had a "traumatic upbringing" and has struggled with substance abuse for most of her life. He said she had been diagnosed earlier in her life with anxiety disorder and depression.

Tucker apologized to the people she swindled and asked for leniency.

"Words can't even make up for the sorrow I feel for what I've done," she said.