An Omaha private investigator was indicted Thursday on allegations that she schemed to defraud a client of more than $850,000.
Patricia Walker-Halstead has been charged by the federal government with 11 counts of wire fraud.
Prosecutors say Walker-Halstead used payments from the client for personal expenses and gambling rather than on background checks and other security services.
The indictment alleges that Walker-Halstead did not perform investigative work, develop evidence or conduct background checks for her client.
Instead, authorities say, she lied to the client in emails and took $856,080 from her.
Walker-Halstead, 67, denied the allegations.
She said at a press conference Thursday that she had no intention of defrauding her client and that she did provide services to her. She said she began working for the client from home in March 2011.
The client wanted Walker-Halstead to investigate several people, including her former husbands, people she dated and people she hired to do work at her house. The client requested her services around the clock, and Walker-Halstead said she sometimes worked 80 to 90 hours a week.
She said she provided services for the client until Aug. 7, when the Secret Service and Nebraska State Patrol served a warrant to search her home near 115th Street and Read Circle.
“My response to the charges is 'I am not guilty,' ” Walker-Halstead said. “There are a lot of untrue statements in these charges.”
Prosecutors say Walker-Halstead told her client that she asked a State Patrol investigator named Scott to “assist with the investigation of her client's security concerns,'' according to the indictment. Authorities said, “Scott was a person made up by Walker-Halstead and who has never existed.”
Walker-Halstead asked her client in an email to give Scott money because he was having financial troubles.
She also convinced her client that Scott could be a “future love interest and possible marriage partner,” the indictment said.
Walker-Halstead declined to discuss whether “Scott” was a real State Patrol investigator.
Her lawyer, James Martin Davis, said Walker-Halstead is a respected private detective who has worked with the FBI and local law enforcement agencies.
“I don't know what motivated this investigation,” Davis said.
“I have my suspicions, and I think there may have been a situation involving this lady (client) where she had to account for her spending and perhaps she couldn't do so, and she tried to say she was hoodwinked by spending all of this money very whimsically.”
If Walker-Halstead is convicted, each wire fraud count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
The indictment also seeks possession of Walker-Halstead's 2012 GMC Terrain and the money remaining in one of her company's bank accounts. Her initial court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 16.