Feds Charge 12 in Tampa in Elder Fraud Sweep
The 12 in Tampa were part of a sweep that netted more than 260 defendants from around the globe who, federals officials said, victimized more than two million Americans, most of them elderly.
TAMPA – Attorney General William P. Barr and U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced on Thursday (March 7) the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history, surpassing last year’s nationwide sweep.
The cases during this sweep involved more than 260 defendants from around the globe who victimized more than two million Americans, most of them elderly. Twelve individuals have been charged in Tampa and another seven in Orlando, making a total of 19 accused in the Middle District of Florida (see below for case summaries).
“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Barr said. “But thanks to the hard work of our agents and prosecutors, as well as our state and local partners, the Department of Justice is protecting our seniors from fraud. The Trump administration has placed a renewed focus on prosecuting those who prey on the elderly, and the results of today’s sweep make that clear. Today we are announcing the largest single law enforcement action against elder fraud in American history.
“This year’s sweep involves 13 percent more criminal defendants, 28 percent more in losses, and twice the number of fraud victims as last year’s sweep.
“I want to thank the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, which led this effort, together with the Department’s Criminal Division, the more than 50 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and the state and local partners who helped to make these results possible. Together, we are bringing justice and peace of mind to America’s seniors.”
Chapa Lopez said, “Elder fraud and exploitation can have an especially severe effect on victims. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners to pursue financial fraudsters who exploit our seniors for personal and financial gain and, we’ll continue our outreach efforts to educate our seniors on ways to avoid and report fraud scams.”
The department took action in every federal district across the country, through the filing of criminal or civil cases or through consumer education efforts. In each case, offenders allegedly engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors. In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused alleged losses of millions of more dollars than last year, putting the total alleged losses at this year’s sweep at more than three-quarters of a billion dollars.
The charges are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Middle District of Florida Case Summaries
Brenda Dozier has pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging her with money laundering conspiracy relating to her participation in an IRS impersonation scam. From July 2015 through at least November 2015, Dozier laundered money that had been extorted from U.S. residents by conspirators residing in the United States and overseas. India-based conspirators impersonated IRS officers and misled multiple victims to believe that they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested and fined if they did not immediately pay their alleged back taxes. Dozier received the fraud proceeds, typically via interstate wire transfers, and, once she received the funds, she provided them, less a fee, to other conspirators based in the United States. Dozier’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 10, 2019. She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.
As alleged in the eleven-count indictment, from at least 2016 through January 2019, Glenn Francis conspired with India-based call centers to extract money from U.S. residents through a variety of confidence scams, including 1) impersonating IRS officers and misleading U.S. residents to believe that they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested and fined if they did not pay their alleged back taxes immediately; 2) impersonating loan officers and misleading U.S. residents to believe they would receive loan proceeds upon paying an advance fee to the defendant or others he hired; or 3) impersonating computer technicians and misleading U.S. residents to believe that their computers had been hacked, their identities had been stolen, and/or their computers were infected with viruses and in need of repair, and that the callers would resolve the purported computer problems if paid to do so. Francis collected the Fraud proceeds in the United States and transferred them back to his India-based conspirators. Francis is set for trial in September 2019. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each count of wire and mail fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and mail fraud. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the three money laundering charges.
Anthony Trujillo has pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with receipt of stolen property relating to his participation in an IRS impersonation scam. In February 2016, Trujillo received approximately $8,200 in his bank account that had been defrauded from two California residents as a result of a confidence scam. Trujillo knew the money had been stolen but instead of reporting it, Trujillo withdrew the fraud proceeds and spent them of over the course of a month. Trujillo’s sentencing hearing is set for March 22, 2019. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
Alejandro Juarez has pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with money laundering conspiracy for his participation in an IRS impersonation scam. From July 2015 through at least September 2015, Juarez laundered money that had been extorted from U.S. residents by conspirators residing in the United States and overseas. India-based conspirators impersonated IRS officers and misled multiple victims to believe that they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested and fined if they did not immediately pay their alleged back taxes. Juarez received the fraud proceeds, typically via interstate wire transfers, and, once he received the funds, he provided them, less a fee, to other conspirators based in the United States. Juarez is scheduled to be sentenced on March 15, 2019. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.
Nishitkumar Patel, Hemalkumar Shah, and Sharvil Patel have each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud relating to their participation in an IRS impersonation fraud scam. N. Patel and Shah have each also pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft. From 2014 through at least 2016, the defendants conspired with India-based call centers to extort money from U.S. residents by impersonating IRS officers and misleading U.S. residents to believe that they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested and fined if they did not pay their alleged back taxes immediately. They collected the fraud proceeds by (1) withdrawing cash from prepaid cards purchased and funded by victims; (2) hiring other conspirators (runners) to retrieve money wired by the victims to those runners; and/or (3) hiring runners to open bank accounts into which victims deposited fraud proceeds. On October 23, 2018, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at the home of Nishitkumar Patel and Hemalkumar Patel. Among other items, they seized approximately $50,000 in cash, hundreds of bank and wire receipts, and 20 electronic devices. Nishitkumar Patel is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28, 2019, the sentencing hearing for Hemalkumar Shah is set for April 18, 2019, and Sharvil Patel’s sentencing hearing is set for May 9, 2019. The defendants each face a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment for the wire fraud conspiracy. N. Patel and Shah also face a minimum mandatory penalty of two years’ imprisonment for aggravated identity theft to run consecutive to the term imposed for the fraud count.
Gary Kinard, Martin Steele, Mark Boring, Troy Cater and David Bell have each pleaded guilty for their roles in a timeshare fraud scam. The defendants conspired to take money from victims throughout the United States who wanted to sell their timeshare properties. They placed telephone calls to these victims, impersonated real estate professionals and attorneys, and misled the timeshare owners to believe the conspirators had identified buyers for the victims’ timeshares. They told the victims that the sales could be consummated if the victims made one or more advanced payments to the conspirators for various fees purportedly associated with the sales, such as closing costs, courier services, title searches, transfer fees, and legal fees. The conspirators often repeatedly re-contacted the victims and fraudulently advised them that additional fees were needed in order to complete the sales, and they continued to dupe the victims into sending bogus advance fees until the victims either ran out of money or became aware of the scam.
After the victims had depleted their assets or recognized that they had been defrauded, the conspirators evolved the scheme by re-contacting their victims via email or phone and, now posing as helpful attorneys, told the victims that they had been defrauded in a timeshare scam. They then offered to “represent” the victims against the “first attorneys,” and to obtain settlements on their behalves. Once they had regained the trust of the timeshare victims, they directed the victims to forward additional bogus fees purportedly associated with the cost of litigation, settlement expenses, and other related expenses. Some victims paid the conspirators hundreds of thousands of dollars for the purported “litigation.” Over the course of the conspiracy, many victims lost their retirement savings and their homes.
Gary Kinard, Martin Steele, and Mark Boring have each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft relating to their participation in a timeshare fraud scam. On February 27, 2019, Kinard was sentenced to 7 years and 11 months in federal prison. Steele and Boring have not yet been sentenced. Each faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for the wire fraud conspiracy and a minimum mandatory consecutive term of 2 years’ imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft count. Troy Cater and David Bell each pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy. They each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.
Between February 2012 and October 2014, six individuals defrauded mostly elderly victims out of more than $3.6 million based on false promises that they had won a multi-million dollar sweepstakes prize. These individuals then used stolen identity information to transfer the fraud proceeds to prepaid debit cards and ultimately transmitted the proceeds to their co-conspirators in Jamaica. In November 2018, a federal jury convicted two of the defendants, Nadine Alexander and Shameer Hassan, of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and three counts of aggravated identity theft. The jury also found Hassan guilty of eight counts of money laundering. Alexander and Hassan each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of the conspiracy charges, and a mandatory minimum of two years’ imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft charges. Hassan also faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment on each of the money laundering charges. Their sentencing hearings are scheduled for March 25, 2019.
Three of the defendants pleaded guilty and have been sentenced. Robert Madurie was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment, Danny Lopez was sentenced to seven years and eight months in federal prison, and Oral Stewart was sentenced to prison term of five years. In a related case, Charlton Morris, a money launderer for the Jamaican lottery scheme, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment.
Rohan Brown has pleaded guilty to one count wire fraud, one count mail fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft for his participation in two conspiracies targeting elderly victims. In one conspiracy, victims in the United States received a phone call from a conspirator in Jamaica who told them they had won a sweepstakes. The victims were told that before they could receive their winnings, they had to send money for “taxes” to Brown in Orlando. The second scheme involved using the stolen personal identification information of Social Security beneficiaries to redirect Social Security benefits into a bank account controlled by Brown. Between both schemes, Brown and his conspirators stole more than $170,000 from more than two dozen elderly victims across the United States. Brown faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each fraud count and a mandatory consecutive of penalty 2 years’ imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft count.
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