A Prosper scam: The story of Jessica Wolcott

Jessica Michelle Wolcott is a girl in her early 20's who goes by the username of JessM on Prosper. She applied for a loan 6 times on Prosper, but was never funded because she has HR credit and lives in a state where the interest rate is capped at 15.75%. In the listings she claimed that her primary job was marketing and she made $60,000 per year. She also mentioned that she also did some modeling for Pantene Pro-V from which she pulled in an additional $10,000-$60,000.

After the six unsuccessful listings, a new listing appears. This time it is Jess's mom who has AA credit taking out a $20,000 auto-fund loan at 15% to help out her daughter. In this listing her mom claims that the reason her daughter has poor credit is not due to all the late payments and missed payments on the account. Instead, she attributes it to credit agencies misspelling her name.

The wording and writing style in her mom's post was very similar to Jess's original posts. Several lenders suggested that Jess probably wrote it herself and many have wondered whether she did so with her Mom's permission or whether she just borrowed her social security number and posted it without her mom's knowledge.

Alan, an active Prosper lender and frequent poster on the Prosper blogs, did a lot of work in the forums to warn people about inconsistencies in details of the different loan requests and warned that it was probably not a good idea to fund the loan. In spite of his warnings, some lenders couldn't resist 15% on a AA loan and the loan ended up funding anyway.

Okay, now on to the good stuff.

Several people on Prosper are good at detective work. When a large AA loan goes late right away it raises suspicions and people start to poke around to see if they can find out why. Their detective work and updates to the Prosper forum allow us to bring you this real life soap opera. The following is a summary of the story as it unfolds in the Prosper Forums.

First we learn that Jessica Wolcott, 22 years old, pleaded guilty to extorting $125,000 from a CEO of a fortune 500 company. She met him on Craigslist and then threatened to go public with details of the extramarital affair. The details were first reported on the Smoking Gun which reported that she used some of the money for an Apple laptop and a 2001 Saab convertible coupe. The mom's listing had mentioned that same Saab convertible. Through some detective work done by Prosper members, we later learn she purchased the Saab convertible on eBay and it had a salvage title. We also learn that she had stashed away 119 ounces of gold (about $74,000 worth) on deposit at e-gold. Apparently she hoped that money would be out of the court's reach. Upon arrest she surrendered what was left of the $125,000 and was then released on $15,000 bail. As part of her release agreement she was ordered not to travel or use a computer and was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment.

On November 27, 2006 she changed her plea to guilty and was scheduled to be sentenced in February. At this time we also learn of some additional inconsistencies in the loan listings. According to Jess' mom, at one point she was in Australia to do a photo shoot yet, according to the US attorney, she never had a passport. We also learn that in April 2006 she was evicted for failure to pay rent. That doesn't jive well with the assertion that she had a wealthy mom and $24,000 in the bank.

The story is picked up by the national news media with a NY Post article and then a second follow-up article. From these we learn that the executive that was being extorted is Wandschneider from Pepsi Bottling Company, and that he had willingly given her $30,000 before she tried to extort more from him at which point he got the FBI involved.

PBS runs a report that Pepsi Bottling Group Inc., the worlds largest maker of Pepsi Cola products starts investigating whether Wandschneider used the computer for non-work-related activities following revelations that he had e-mail exchanges with a woman that tried to extort $125,000 from him.

At this point the "Mom" finds the posts about her daughter in the Prosper Forums and tries to defend her daughter. Many lenders wonder whether this poster is the mom, or whether this is the daughter pretending to be the Mom. The "Mom" claims that Prosper members had asked for explicit photos, dates, meetings in person, and other inappropriate requests in exchange for bids or lending money to her privately.

The story runs on Gawker and includes a mention of her Prosper loan attempts. The story links to her Prosper member page which has since had the content deleted. In spite of the fact that one of her bail provisions was that she could not use a computer she managed to delete the information in her Prosper profile, as well as the information in her MySpace pages.

As the story unfolds, Fox news runs a special where they talk to Jessica Wolcott's ex-husband Kyle Strait. He claims she stole $15,000 from his bank account and racked up the same amount in loans in his name while he was overseas in the military. He said "she has to be stopped" and explained that Wolcott's fantastic stories included claims that she inherited $56 million from her dad when he died. We also learn of another man, Domin Aleadri who became engaged to her unaware that she was already married. After breaking up with her she sent Aleadri sonograms claiming to be pregnant with twins, but he later learned that the fake sonograms were just another fraud.

We also now learn that because of this incident Wandschneider, the Pepsi Cola executive and father of three, is no longer employed at Pepsi Bottling Group. Company officials refuse to comment on whether he was fired or whether he resigned from his position which has a $6 million dollar annual salary.

Jessica's ex-husband, Kyle, joins the Prosper forum and says, "This is like a huge closure for me so it's good to see she finally spun so far out of control that other people got to see it. I'll never get back what she took from me, but the media and you guys are making up for that." She had told her ex-husband that she had 7 middle names Jessica Michelle Monica Elizabeth Dakota Raymita Tatiyanna Rachel Wolcott but that her real name was the Indian name Ewakailakaipu.

As the story hit papers in her hometown, other people who personally know Jessica join the forum and suggest that Jessica's mom wouldn't do anything to protect her and that she was kicked out of the house at age 15. This leads additional credence to what lenders assumed all along - that Jess was impersonating her mom when she took out the Prosper loan. These people also confirm that everything in the original loan requests from Jessica and the subsequent loan request is a hoax and completely untrue.

From these hometown friends of Jessica we learn of a past filled with a web of lies that include faking death, and sending pictures of herself all bruised up with bruises that were created with Halloween makeup. Other incidents included pretending that someone had broken into her apartment and tried to kill her. She went as far as calling the police to have some of her friends investigated.

ABC News runs a two page story that confirms that Wandschneider was fired from his position in the company. DealBreaker runs a story that claims that in addition to eight middle names and an Indian name, Jessica Wolcott has 50 different aliases on the internet.

Jessica's ex-fiance, Dominic Aleandri, joins the Prosper forums. Both he and Kyle, the ex-husband, get interviewed by Inside Edition. Dominic claims he still doesn't know who she really is, but that she was brilliant and clever in spinning her lies. He claims to think that maybe her Mom was involved in some of the schemes and in backing the world of lies about Jess.

February arrives and the U.S. probation officer assigned to the case requests an adjournment saying that Wolcott should first undergo additional psychological examination. The request is granted by the judge and the new sentencing date is set for April 20, 2007.

While awaiting her court date, Jessica is involved in a bar brawl that leaves her victim with 11 stitches. She is again arrested and ordered to wear a monitoring bracelet.

Once again there is a postponement in the sentencing, this time it is set for June 15th. As articles are written about this postponement we learn of additional scams involving the owner of a car dealership. To make a long story short, the owner met up with Wolcott in Florida, and quickly proceeded to buy her a NSX valued at $60,000. When she tried to extort him for additional money, he repossessed the car and tried to turn the tables on her by threatening to reveal her scam. She relented and decided to leave him alone.

The sentencing date has now passed and according to court records her sentencing has happened. Public records that are supposed to be available related to her sentencing are not available. Searches related to the case on PACER do not show any updates. Phone calls to the court indicate that her case is lost somewhere.

So, the mystery and intrigue of this Prosper soap opera continue. I will post major updates in the comments section of this article if and when they become available.

Update (12/19/07): Notorious Prosper borrower gets 21 months in jail

Update (2/10/2008): JessM in trouble with the law again