Source: United States Department of Justice News
Assistant U. S. Attorney Oleksandra “Sasha” Johnson (619) 546-9769
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 25, 2022
SAN DIEGO – Two more members of a nationwide “grandparent scam” network have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act known as RICO.
Joaquin Lopez of Hollywood, Florida, pleaded guilty in federal court today; Anajah Gifford of North Hollywood, California, pleaded guilty on May 5, 2022. They are the third and fourth of eight defendants to plead guilty; two are pending trial and two are fugitives.
According to court documents, the defendants were members and associates of a criminal enterprise that engaged in extortion and fraud to swindle more than $2 million from 70-plus elderly victims across the nation. At least 10 elderly victims who resided in San Diego County lost over $300,000 to the fraud. From approximately November 1, 2019, until October 14, 2020, the members of the criminal enterprise targeted elderly Americans, contacting them by phone and feeding them phony stories that their grandchildren were in legal trouble and needed money to pay for bail, pay medical expenses for car accident victims, or prevent additional charges from being filed. Members and associates obtained money from victims through in-person cash pick-ups, by mail or commercial carriers, or via wire transfers. Conspirators laundered the proceeds by transferring the funds or converting from fiat currency to cryptocurrency.
According to defendant Joaquin Lopez’s plea agreement, Lopez used bank accounts under his control to funnel victim proceeds for codefendant Tracy Knowles. As part of the guilty plea, Lopez agreed to forfeit $62,700 in proceeds from the offense. Lopez will also be subject to an order of restitution to the victims of the offense in the amount of at least $136,500.
According to defendant Anajah Gifford’s plea agreement, Gifford conducted cash pick-ups from victims under codefendant Timothy Ingram’s direction, and helped Ingram pay unlawful proceeds to codefendant Knowles. She also recruited others to obtain additional bank accounts to receive money transfers from victims. As part of her guilty plea, Gifford agreed to forfeit $52,750 in proceeds she personally received from the offense and pay at least $1,235,406.93 to the victims in restitution.
“These defendants were part of a sophisticated criminal organization that exploited the tremendous love a grandparent has for a grandchild,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The victims were financially and emotionally devastated by callous people who thought only of enriching themselves. Because of the diligence of our prosecution team and law enforcement partners, these defendants have been brought to justice.”
“The FBI is proud to work with our local, state, and federal partners on San Diego’s Elder Justice Task Force to protect our elderly population with cases such as this,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy. “Our senior citizens deserve better than to be targeted by these criminal organizations and we are committed to pursuing them regardless of where they are located.”
This case was investigated by the San Diego Elder Justice Task Force, which is a collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the District Attorney’s Office and all San Diego County law enforcement agencies. The Elder Justice Task Force was established in February 2021 and is believed to be the first comprehensive law enforcement effort for this purpose anywhere in the country. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch.
DEFENDANTS Case Number 21cr2216-CAB
Tracy Adrine Knowles 30 Orlando, Florida
Adonis Alexis Butler Wong 30 Northbay Village, Florida
Timothy Ingram, AKA Bleezy 29 North Hollywood, California
In custody. Sentencing set for July 29, 2022.
Anajah Gifford 23 North Hollywood, California
In custody. Sentencing set for August 26, 2022.
Lyda Harris 74 Laveen, Arizona
Released on bond. Pending trial.
Joaquin Lopez 46 Hollywood, Florida
Released on bond. Sentencing set for August 19, 2022.
Jack Owuor 25 Paramount, California
Released on bond. Sentencing set for July 15, 2022.
Tracy Glinton 35 Orlando, Florida
Released on bond. Pending trial.
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1962(d) – Conspiracy to Conduct or Participate in an Enterprise
Through a Pattern of Racketeering Activity
Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and a fine of not more than the greater of twice the amount of gain or loss associated with the offense or $250,000
Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch
San Diego Elder Justice Task Force, which includes:
San Diego FBI
San Diego County District Attorney’s Office
San Diego Police Department
San Diego Sheriff’s Department
Carlsbad Police Department
Oceanside Police Department
Escondido Police Department
Chula Vista Police Department
El Cajon Police Department
La Mesa Police Department
National City Police Department
Coronado Police Department