MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A prominent Springfield businesswoman, political activist, and philanthropist is now a convicted felon. Friday, Nadia Cavner pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the federal interstate stalking statute. She admitted to harassing her daughter's ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend in Tennessee.
Many in Springfield and around the country consider Cavner a powerhouse. She is one of the top investment advisers nationwide, one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking, and Missourian of the Year. At her firm, the financial adviser oversees more than $485 million in assets.
Prosecutor Brian Coleman read a list of allegations during Friday's court hearing. Coleman said Cavner's daughter Maral had a boyfriend when she attended Emory University in Atlanta, but they broke up and he moved to Memphis.
The man, identified only as P.M., then began dating someone else in Memphis, identified as K.S. Coleman said. During about four-month time span, the Missouri mom spent $26,000 to stalk and sabotage a college-aged couple.
"Interstate stalking either means you physically crossed the state line while you are doing the stalking or you use a facility of interstate commerce like a telephone or a fax machine or the internet or email to do the stalking," explained Steve Mulroy, a law professor.
According to court documents, during July through November 2011, Cavner targeted the young Memphis couple. She temporarily relocated an employee to Memphis to conduct surveillance. An anonymous letter and voice mails were sent. She hired private investigators to follow the couple out of town. She attempted to plant drugs, pay officers to charge the man with DUI, and tried to establish home recording devices.
Coleman said Cavner then discussed the possibility of someone becoming violent with the ex-boyfriend, but not to the point of killing him.
"You know, break an arm or two," Cavner is accused of saying.
Cavner also discussed a drive-by shooting to scare the couple. The drive-by would have been blamed on gang members, Coleman said.
Investigators eventually contacted the FBI before anyone got hurt.
"Even if the person you speak to never even makes a move towards assaulting someone, you solicited them to do it and you attempted to do it, and that is itself a criminal act," explained Mulroy.
Cavner said little in U.S. District Court, but admitted to the interstate stalking charge.
"She is very strong, she is resolved to continue her philanthropy which is very considerable. She donates thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to various charities," said Cavner's attorney Steve Farese. "She plans to continue that."
Cavner organized a fundraiser for President Barack Obama in Springfield in July 2008, collecting $250,000 for the campaign, The Washington Post reported.
Cavner also worked for Obama's 2008 campaign, collecting between $50,000 and $100,000, according to opensecrets.org. She donated $1,000 to Obama's 2012 campaign. As a convicted felon, Cavner may not have the opportunity to vote.
Cavner also has donated to Democrat U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and the Missouri Democratic State Committee. And, she has been active in several charities, including ones that deal with breast cancer, education, and food and safe housing for people in need.
Cavner founded the Nadia Cavner Group and was named by Barron's, a publication of Dow Jones & Company, in 2011 and 2012 as the top female financial adviser in Missouri. A Springfield Business Journal article dated Dec. 20, 2012, named Cavner as one of "12 People You Need to Know in 2013."
The maximum penalty for the federal charge is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of her plea deal, prosecutors recommended probation. She was released on her own recognizance and is scheduled to be sentenced by District Judge John Fowlkes on Aug. 1.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.