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Sixteen People Charged with Conspiracy to Defraud Hundreds of Elderly Americans of Millions of Dollars

May 2, 2024

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – Sixteen individuals were charged in connection with a sprawling “grandparent scam” to defraud hundreds of elderly Americans out of millions of dollars, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.

Eleven men from the Dominican Republic are charged in a 19-count indictment with mail and wire fraud conspiracy; wire fraud; mail fraud; conspiracy to commit money laundering; and money laundering:

*Juan Rafael Parra Arias, aka “Yofre,” 40
Nefy Vladimir Parra Arias, aka “Keko,” 39
Nelson Rafael Gonzalez Acevedo, aka “Nelson Tech,” 35
*Rafael Ambiorix Rodriguez Guzman, aka “Max Morgan,” 59
Miguel Angel Fortuna Solano, aka “Botija,” aka “Boti,” 41
*Felix Samuel Reynoso Ventura, aka “Fili,” aka “Filly The Kid,” 36
Carlos Javier Estevez, 45
Louis Junior Serrano Rodriguez, aka “Junior,” 27
Miguel Angel Vasquez, aka “Miguel Disla,” 24
Jovanni Antonio Rosario Garcia, aka “Porky,” aka “Chop,” 45
*Jose Ismael Dilone Rodriguez, 34
*denotes in custody

An additional five defendants were charged by complaint with wire fraud conspiracy as part of the same scheme: Endy Jose Torres Moran, 21, of Brooklyn, New York; Ivan Alexander Inoa Suero, 32, of the Bronx, New York; Jhonny Cepeda, 27, and Ramon Hurtado, 43, both of New York; and Yuleisy Roque, 21, of the Bronx.

“As alleged, these 16 defendants preyed upon grandparents’ familial love and devotion, cheating them out of millions of dollars. In this ‘grandparents’ scam,’ the defendants allegedly impersonated grandchildren in distress, claiming, for example, they had been arrested after a car accident involving a pregnant woman who later miscarried, and they needed immediate cash for bail or a lawyer. The panic-stricken grandparents quickly paid—sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. My office is committed to protecting the rights of all victims, and we will relentlessly prosecute those who allegedly target vulnerable seniors to steal their hard-earned savings.”

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger

“The Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and its law enforcement partners will vigorously pursue individuals who prey on vulnerable and elderly victims through fraudulent schemes,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun Rao of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch said. “We will continue to identify perpetrators of these schemes and prioritize the pursuit of those who deliberately target vulnerable consumers, whether located in the United States or abroad.”

“Today’s announcement stems from the defendants’ alleged heartless targeting of elderly victims who were collectively tricked into handing over millions of dollars,” Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, New York, Acting Special Agent in Charge Darren B. McCormack, said. “For their own selfish gain, these accused individuals threatened innocent Americans’ livelihoods, and robbed them of their precious time and any nest eggs they had secured for themselves. I commend HSI New York’s El Dorado Task Force Cyber Intrusion Group, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the NYPD, the FBI, the Social Security Office of Inspector General, and HSI Santo Domingo for their outstanding collaboration and coordination. This can truly happen to anybody, and while we will always be there to assist victims, we hope that raising awareness will give these criminal opportunists fewer chances to target the public.”

“We allege these scammers created an elaborate scheme revolving around a grandchild reaching out to say they were in trouble, had been arrested, and needed help,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “Then to reinforce an immediate need for cash, these fraudsters allegedly posed as attorneys, law enforcement officers and court employees explaining how grandparents can get them money. Even the most jaded and savvy of us out there may pause a moment, thinking that this could actually be real. That’s the insidious nature of this particular fraud, criminals are preying on our instinct to protect our families. We ask anyone who believes they could also be a victim to report it at www.ic3.gov.”

“Fraud targeting the elderly has a uniquely harmful effect on a segment of the population that is often amongst society’s most vulnerable,” Bradley Parker, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Boston – New York Field Division, said. “SSA OIG is proud to join HSI, the FBI, the Justice Department, and the NYPD in investigating these complex, international scams aimed at defrauding SSA beneficiaries.”

“These charges underscore law enforcement’s commitment to protecting our older population from fraudsters and financial exploitation,” New York Police Department Commissioner Edward A. Caban said. “The crimes outlined here are truly depraved in their nature: targeting our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and others in an elaborate venture to bilk them of their hard-earned savings. I applaud our NYPD investigators and all of our federal partners involved in this important case for their tireless dedication to our shared public safety mission.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Juan Rafael Parra Arias, Nefy Vladimir Parra Arrias, and Gonzalez Acevedo operated a sophisticated network of call centers in the Dominican Republic. Their alleged victims included elderly residents of several states, including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. The call centers victimized hundreds of Americans through fraud, stealing millions of dollars.

Members of the conspiracy referred to as “openers” called elderly victims in the United States and impersonated the victims’ children, grandchildren, or other close relatives. The call centers used technology to make it appear that the calls were coming from inside the United States. Typically, the victim was told that their grandchild had been in a car accident, was arrested as a result of the accident, and needed help. 

Once openers duped victims into believing their loved ones were in dire trouble, others working at the call centers, known as “closers,” impersonated defense attorneys, police officers, or court personnel and convinced victims to provide thousands of dollars in cash to help their loved ones. 

Closers, including defendants Rodriguez Guzman, Fortuna Solano, Reynoso Ventura, and Estevez, typically told victims to give the cash to couriers who they sent to victims’ homes to collect their money. Other times, closers instructed victims to send the cash by mail.

Once victims were convinced to give cash, call center “dispatchers,” including Serrano Rodriguez, Vasquez, Rosario Rodriguez, and Dilone Rodriguez recruited and managed a network of U.S.-based couriers to steal cash from the elderly victims across the Northeast.

Those U.S.-based couriers, including the five charged by complaint, typically went to the elderly victims’ home to retrieve the cash, often using false names and providing victims with fake receipts in exchange. The couriers then brought the cash to other members of the conspiracy, who sent the victims’ money back to the Dominican Republic.

Each of the charges in the indictment and complaint carries a maximum potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Each of the mail and wire fraud charges also carry a potential fine of up to $250,000; each of the money laundering charges also carry a potential fine of up to $500,000.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents and investigators of the Department of Homeland Security, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge McCormack; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennehy in Newark; the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, New York / Boston Field Division, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Bradley Parker; and the New York Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Caban, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Silane of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark, and Jason Feldman, Joshua Ferrentino, and Emily Powers of the Department of Justice, Consumer Protection Branch in Washington, D.C.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment and complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Video press statement: Grandparents Scam press statement – YouTube



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