One woman's suspicion over the legitimacy of a child could send another woman to prison.
Johna Loreen Vandemore pleaded guilty this week to a federal mail fraud charge and awaits sentencing. Records state the former Maquoketa woman faked a birth to collect child support payments from a man she led to believe was the child's father.
The scheme went on for six years, and Vandemore collected more than $100,000, records state.
The case began with a private investigator who ultimately went to the Bettendorf Police Department with suspicious findings.
The victim, who lives in a Minneapolis suburb, married at some point after the scheme began, Bettendorf Detective Jeff Buckles said Thursday.
“The wife of the victim started doing some digging on her own and found some inconsistencies,” he said. “She hired a private investigator.”
Although Vandemore lived in Maquoketa at the time, the money was being sent to Bettendorf, which is why Buckles became involved.
“She was originally from the Quad-City area,” he said of Vandemore. “At some point after the scheme had started, she moved to Maquoketa. She retained the P.O. Box (in Bettendorf).”
The victim stopped paying the support after he received confirmation that the child didn't exist, Buckles said, adding that Vandemore never admitted to the scheme.
“We see a lot of things,” he said. “The fact you can carry this on this long … disheartening may not be the right word. It’s crazy.”
When the detective confirmed the case involved mail fraud, he said, he contacted the FBI. The case then became a federal matter.
Vandemore, also known as Johna Volger and Johna Ratliff, appeared Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Davenport, to enter her guilty plea to one count of mail fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison at her sentencing, which was set for March 27, 2015.
According to court records unsealed this week:
Vandemore met the victim, identified as T.K., on an online dating website in the spring of 2007. She first met the victim in person in Bettendorf in May 2007, and she met with him again shortly thereafter in Waterloo.
Two or three months after their meeting in Waterloo, Vandemore contacted the victim and told him that she was pregnant. She refused to seek a paternity test when the victim requested one. She said a paternity test would lead to her filing a child support claim in court. She convinced the victim to pay her $1,000 per month in child support as an alternative to court-ordered child support.
She sent the victim a fake, doctored birth certificate that she falsely represented to be the birth certificate of the victim's daughter. She also sent the victim pictures of her cousin's daughter and falsely represented them to be pictures of the victim's daughter.