Woman sentenced for fraud after faking ties to Kobe Bryant

CORONA, Calif. (AP) — A judge has sentenced a Southern California woman to 20 months in prison after she hid her criminal history to defraud an investor into giving her $13,000 from a retirement fund.

IRS Special Agent Ryan Asato said Carolyn Marie Jones, 57, presented herself as an entrepreneur, concealing her prior conviction and four-year sentence for lying to obtain $15 million in credit, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Tuesday.

Officials from the U.S. attorney's office said Jones allegedly told her most recent victim, who was not identified, she had support from LeBron James, Taylor Swift, Chrissy Teigen and other celebrity names. She also claimed Kobe Bryant’s daughter Gianna Bryant was planning to represent her clothing line after learning she and her father died in a helicopter crash in January.

“I am devastated — now we really have work to do,” Jones wrote in a text message the day of the crash. “Kobe wanted his daughter to be the face of our brand… I have been in shock all morning…”

Jones was sentenced Monday. Her defense attorney Ian Wallach declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

Asato said earlier this year that the investor would have never given Jones money if her criminal past was known.

Court documents said Jones owned Diamond Decisions Inc., which sold jeans under the labels Privacywear and PRVCY Premium, before she was sentenced to more than six years in prison in 2015 after falsifying financial records and using another person’s Social Security number to gain credit. She later pleaded guilty to bank fraud and concealing assets in bankruptcy.

Prosecutors said that while behind bars she allegedly posted an ad on Craigslist titled “Seeking Financial Partner!! up to $25K,” and was contacted by a would-be investor in December 2019. Jones was released from custody in February. The person she was attempting to defraud became suspicious and began providing information to the IRS. That ultimately led to the revocation of her parole and her return to prison.