Source: United States Department of Justice
Five residents of Lima, Peru, were extradited to the United States and made their initial appearances in Miami federal court, where they stand accused of operating a large fraud and extortion scheme targeting Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States, the Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced today.
“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will pursue and prosecute transnational criminals who defraud U.S. consumers, wherever they are,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark. “Criminals who defraud and threaten U.S. consumers by phone will not escape justice by placing their calls from abroad. I thank the Republic of Peru for extraditing these individuals to face charges here in the United States.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) will not allow overseas criminal enterprises to illegally enrich themselves by using the mail to defraud consumers in the United States,” said USPIS Miami Division Inspector in Charge Antonio J. Gomez. “With the continued cooperation of foreign governments, these criminals will be aggressively pursued and brought to justice.”
Henrry Milla Campuzano, 36; Fernan Huerta Haro, 33; Evelyng Milla Campuzano, 35; Jerson Renteria Gonzales, 37; and Omar Cuzcano Marroquin, 32; all of Lima, Peru, face a 55-count indictment charging them with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and extortion. The indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in June 2018 and unsealed upon the defendants’ extradition to the United States.
According to the indictment, the defendants managed and operated a series of connected Peruvian call centers that used Internet-based telephone calls to contact Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States. The call centers falsely told consumers they had won raffles for free products, including computer tablets with English-language courses. Many consumer victims expressed interest in receiving the free products. In later calls, those victims—many of whom were elderly — were told they were required to make large payments to receive the products. When victims objected, the callers misrepresented that the victims had unlawfully failed to pay for or receive delivery of products.
According to the indictment, the defendants and their employees falsely claimed to be lawyers, court officials, federal agents, and representatives of a supposed “minor crimes court.” The defendants and their employees falsely told victims that they had a contractual obligation to pay for and receive products and had caused legal problems for themselves and others by allegedly failing to do so. The indictment alleges that the callers also falsely threatened victims with court proceedings, negative marks on their credit reports, imprisonment, or immigration consequences if they did not immediately pay for the purportedly delivered products and settlement fees. According to the indictment, many victims paid because of these baseless threats, and the defendants and their co-conspirators fraudulently collected over $3 million in victim payments.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch. The USPIS investigated the case. The Department of Justice’s Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida, the Diplomatic Security Service, and the Peruvian National Police provided critical assistance.
Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, the Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors. In January 2020, the department designated “Preventing and Disrupting Transnational Elder Fraud” as an Agency Priority Goal, one of its top four priorities. Later, in March 2020, the department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 400 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep. The department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act.
The department’s extensive and broad-based efforts to combat elder fraud seek to halt the billions of dollars senior lose to fraud schemes, including those perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations. The best method for prevention, however, is by sharing information about the various types of elder fraud schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors, and other seniors who can use that information to protect themselves.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed 7 days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. eastern time. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.