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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
  2. News Room
  3. 16 Charged in Connection With Transnational ‘Grandparent Scam’ From Dominican Republic

16 Charged in Connection With Transnational ‘Grandparent Scam’ From Dominican Republic Following HSI New York Investigation

Release Date: April 30, 2024

NEWARK, N.J — A Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York investigation, in coordination with the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch; the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey; the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General’s Boston-New York Field Division; the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch; and the New York Police Department has led to charges against 16 people accused of a sprawling “grandparent scam” to defraud hundreds of elderly Americans out of millions of dollars, HSI New York acting Special Agent in Charge Darren B. McCormack announced April 30.

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:

  1. Juan Rafael Parra Arias aka Yofre, 41
  2. Nefy Vladimir Parra Arias aka Keko, 39
  3. Nelson Rafael Gonzalez Acevedo aka Nelson Tech, 35
  4. Rafael Ambiorix Rodriguez Guzman aka Max Morgan, 59
  5. Miguel Angel Fortuna Solano aka Botija, aka Boti, 41
  6. Felix Samuel Reynoso Ventura aka Fili, aka Filly the Kid, 37
  7. Carlos Javier Estevez, 45
  8. Louis Junior Rodriguez Serrano aka Junior, 27
  9. Miguel Angel Vasquez aka Miguel Disla, 24
  10. Jovanni Antonio Rosario Garcia aka Porky, aka Chop, 45
  11. Jose Ismael Dilone Rodriguez, 34

Juan Rafael Parra Arias, Guzman, Ventura and Rodriguez are currently in custody.

According to the investigation unsealed on April 29 in federal court in Newark, the indicted defendants engaged in a long-running “grandparent” or “family in need of bail” scam against seniors in the United States. The scam was operated from call centers in the Dominican Republic.

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 New York, New York; Jhonny Cepeda, 27, of New York, New York; Ramon Hurtado, 43, of New York, New York, and Yuleisy Roque, 21, of the Bronx, New York. All five defendants charged by complaint are alleged to have acted as couriers who picked up cash from defrauded victims in New Jersey, New York and elsewhere.

“Today’s announcement stems from the defendants’ alleged heartless targeting of elderly victims who were collectively tricked into handing over millions of dollars,” said McCormack. “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.”

McCormack credited special agents and investigators with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Sellinger; the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General’s New York-Boston Field Division under the direction of acting Special Agent in Charge Bradley Parker; the New York Police Department under the direction of Commissioner Caban; and special agents of the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked HSI Santo Domingo and its Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit, as well as the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

“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,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun G. Rao of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch. “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.”

“As alleged in the indictment and complaint, these defendants facilitated the deception and financial destruction of caring elderly victims by taking advantage of their love for their grandchildren and loved ones,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Philip R. Sellinger. “Combating elder fraud and protecting the citizens of New Jersey is a top priority for this office and our law enforcement partners. These individuals will be held responsible for preying upon vulnerable elderly Americans. I also hope today’s charges serve to inform our elderly neighbors and their caregivers about this pervasive scam.”

“Fraud targeting the elderly has a uniquely harmful effect on a segment of the population that is often amongst society's most vulnerable,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Bradley Parker for the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, Boston-New York Field Division. “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.”

“The FBI and its partners are deeply committed to keeping our elderly population out of harm’s way,” said Executive Assistant Director Timothy Langan of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch. “Even when components of these grandparent scams are being perpetuated from beyond our borders, those who engage in illicit activity seeking to defraud the American people can be assured that their actions have consequences. If you or someone you know is a victim of elder fraud, please come forward and report it.”

“These charges underscore law enforcement’s commitment to protecting our older population from fraudsters and financial exploitation,” said Caban. “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 the investigation, 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 or was arrested in connection with an accident and needed help.

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

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

After victims were convinced to give cash, call center “dispatchers,” including Rodriguez Serrano, Vasquez, Rosario Garcia and Dilone Rodriguez, recruited and managed a network of U.S.-based couriers to obtain cash from the elderly victims across the northeastern United States.

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

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

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.

Last Updated: 04/30/2024
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