A Fayette County woman who impersonated rodeo star Sherry Cervi in order to get saddles, attention from men and hundreds of cell phones pleaded guilty today to five counts of mail fraud.
Susan Rowan, 39, of Vanderbilt, faces a July 2 sentencing at which prosecutors are expected to argue that her fraud cost Sprint Communications $432,000 in phones and services and cost a saddle-maker $8,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen said that Ms. Rowan contacted Sprint by email and claimed "that she was a wealthy rodeo star with a business interest" and employees in need of cell phones.
From July 2008 until February 2010, Ms. Rowan ordered some 700 phones, and Sprint sent more than 500, Mr. Kitchen said. Ms. Rowan gave some to relatives and friends.
When a Sprint investigator confronted her, she returned 170 phones and said she burned many more in a field, according to Mr. Kitchen.
Mr. Kitchen said that Ms. Rowan also pretended to be Ms. Cervi, a renowned barrel racer, in communications with a saddle maker who provided two customized saddles for her.
Finally, Ms. Rowan emailed with three men, who came to Western Pennsylvania to meet her where she "continued to pretend to be Sherry Cervi," said Mr. Kitchen.
The real Sherry Cervi is an Arizona native and 11-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier and two-time world champion, according to press reports.
Assistant federal public defender Linda E.J. Cohn said she disputed the prosecution's calculation of the losses well as "several details that really do not go to the elements of this offense."
She declined to say more after the plea hearing.
U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone will pronounce sentence.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.