An air hostess – cupcake businessman hides her criminal past by stealing identity of a dead infant and used it to get a job, a pilot’s license, a passport, college admission and ultimately hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds, federal investigators said.
The scam went on for almost two decades, until “Brie Bourgeois” slipped last year when renewing her passport, according to an unsealed criminal complaint on Friday.
Ava Virginia Misseldine, 49 years old, is arrested on Thursday by federal agents in Utah. Misseldine last year moved west from Columbus, Ohio, where she runs a highly rated organic bakery. One of Misseldine’s properties, Koko Tea Salon & Bakery, has been featured on Food Network’s The best I’ve ever eaten, for red velvet cupcakes made with beet juice rather than food coloring. In a 2014 interview with Columbus monthlyMisseldine describes herself as a former cancer researcher who grew up in Hawaii, where, as she recounts, The Columbus Dispatch A year earlier, her family ran a long-standing tea business. Misseldine said she moved to Ohio to study chemical engineering at Ohio State University, and she started baking in 2011 in honor of her beloved grandmother.
But, a relative told The Daily Beast, it was mostly news to him.
Contacted by phone, Russell Misseldine, who lives in the Cleveland suburb of Mentor, said Ava did not grow up in Hawaii, that the family was not in the tea business and that he “didn’t know” she was, according to public records testified, a “Brie Bourgeois” attended Ohio State, as well as an Ava Misseldine, who is listed as having studied the liberal arts.
Even more bizarre, Misseldine is allegedly maintaining a completely separate life under the name “Brie Bourgeois,” a ruse she began in 2003, three years after being released from prison for theft, counterfeiting impersonation and prison escape. Brie Bourgeois actually died in 1997, an affidavit filed in Ohio federal court by a special agent with the US Department of Diplomatic Security.
When Misseldine took on her new scam identity, she started by getting an official Ohio state identification card as Bourgeois’, which she then used to get her Social Security card and driver’s license. Misseldine produced a copy of Bourgeois’ birth certificate and the names of the real Bourgeois parents, Jacques and Paula.
To explain why she didn’t apply for a Social Security number until the age of 31, Misseldine “stated that she had been homeschooled all her life without a job. [B]ut says she now needs her Social Security number to get into college. ‘ She then used Bourgeois’ identity to attend Ohio State.
Paula Bourgeois said she never knew that her daughter’s identity had been taken, that she did not have any relationship with Misseldine, and that she did not hear about the arrest until The Daily Beast called Call for comment on Friday.
Ms Bourgeois said: “Brie died too young, without a Social Security number, and expressed concern that she could somehow be held responsible for any financial crimes on behalf of her children. “She’s only been dead for four and a half months… I’m really amazed.” Jacques Bourgeois died in 2003, she said.
In 2006, Misseldine registered and received an Ohio driver’s license under her real name, in addition to the one she already had as Bourgeois. Though investigators won’t connect the dots for another decade and a half, this, the affidavit showed, was Misseldine’s first mistake.
The following year, Misseldine – as Brie Bourgeois – began working as a flight attendant for the Columbus-based private jet charter service JetSelect, affidavit against her states. That June, the Federal Aviation Administration issued “Brie Bourgeois” student pilot certificate.
In November, Misseldine, again as Bourgeois, applied for a passport in Columbus.
“Bourgeois” said in her application that she intended to travel to Dubai, a trip that ultimately never took place, according to the affidavit. One section is titled “What other names did you use?” has been left blank. In the event of an emergency contact, “Bourgeois” listed an individual with the initials FF, which the federal government says also appears on the manifest in a civil case against Misseldine filed a decade ago. previously in Union County, Ohio. (An associate of Misseldine with those initials admitted he knew her but declined to comment on her latest arrest when contacted by The Daily Beast on Friday.)
Using her fake driver’s license and a letter from JetSelect saying she would be working “across Europe and the Middle East”, she obtained a passport issued to Brie Bourgeois, showing the same home address as Misseldine , according to the affidavit.
Misseldine was brought to court under Bourgeois’ name several times, According to court records reviewed by The Daily Beast. On December 17, 2007, “Bourgeois” pleaded guilty to burglary in Franklin County, Ohio.
But again, the address listed for “Bourgeois” is the same home associated with Misseldine’s driver’s license, the affidavit said. This will become a theme in Misseldine’s life, and will eventually lead to her undoing.
In 2008, Misseldine registered a retail business in Ohio called “Brie Bourgeois” and transferred ownership of a vehicle from “Brie Bourgeois” to Ava Misseldine, the affidavit said. She was also sued by a creditor in civil court who referred to her as Ava Misseldine (aka Brie Bourgeois),’ the affidavit read.
Through it all, Misseldine even tricked a federal judge overseeing the bankruptcy petition she filed in 2004, according to prosecutors.
In October 2014, Misseldine appeared in court to hear her petition. When asked if she had ever used the name Brie Bourgeois, Misseldine “said she only used that name for about two years and last used it about four years ago,” the affidavit read. “She stated that she was adopted, ‘Brie Bourgeois’ being her birth name, and she briefly used the name ‘Brie Bourgeois’ until her adoptive family became upset about it. Here’s a lie: Brie Bourgeois was a real person who died as an infant, with a different date of birth and different birth parents than Ava Misseldine. “
Still, Misseldine went ahead as if nothing had happened, obtaining a passport in her real name so she could travel to Honduras.
In April 2020, as COVID-19 erupted into a full-blown pandemic, Misseldine began applying for Paycheck Protection Program funds using documents that forged both her and Brie Bourgeois’ own names, according to the federal government. She lists various businesses, some of which are no longer open, including her former bakery Sugar Inc. Cupcakes & Tea Salon, and Koko Tea Salon & Bakery.
In total, Misseldine received about $1.5 million in government loans that were later forgiven, according to the affidavit. The affidavit said no money was set aside for savings, noting that Misseldine did in fact spend the money on a $650,000 home near Zion National Park in Utah, as well as $330,000 la in Michigan.
It wasn’t until January 2021 that Misseldine came to the attention of investigators.
That month, Misseldine applied for a new passport as Brie Bourgeois in the mail, according to the affidavit. She submitted a photo of herself, listing Bourgeois’ date of birth as her own, and the Social Security number she obtained in 2003 under the name Bourgeois’.
And that’s when the authorities said Misseldine was caught up in the web of lies she had created.
On her passport application, Misseldine listed her email address as firstname.lastname@example.org, which matched a URL, sugarinccupcakes.com, linked in in Misseldine’s Twitter Profileaffidavit stated.
“Some of the information in this fraudulent passport application reflects information Misseldine provided in her 2015 passport application under her true identity,” the filing continued. “For example, the 2021 fraud application lists her occupation as ‘baker’, her emergency contact number is [Misseldine’s]and her intended destination, Honduras, all matched the information Misseldine provided in her 2015 passport application under her real identity. ”
The app “has been flagged for possible fraud, resulting in [present] investigation,” the affidavit read.
Misseldine is currently charged with passport fraud, Social Security number fraud, aggravated identity theft and fraud in connection with large emergency or disaster benefits. If convicted, she faces up to 30 years in prison. Misseldine has not yet had an attorney listed in court records and could not be reached for comment.