Attorney General William P. Barr and U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak announced 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.
“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Attorney General William P. 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.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office has made protecting the elderly a priority. As part of the elder fraud sweep, this Office brought multiple indictments against defendants responsible for defrauding hundreds of victims, many of them are seniors, out of nearly $5 million,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “We remain focused on prosecuting the criminals who target our community’s seniors with financial scams and abuse. Citizens always should be wary of callers who make threats and ask for personal information, and should contact law enforcement if they believe that they have fallen victim to one of these scams.”
Three cases from the Northern District of Georgia include:
- United States v. Mehboob Mansurali Charania: On November 6, 2018, the defendant was charged based on his alleged involvement in a transnational criminal organization that victimized over 340 people in the United States through a fraudulent India-based call-center scheme, resulting in over $200,000 in losses. Criminal India-based call centers seek to profit by exploiting United States residents, including the most vulnerable members of our community, by impersonating officials from the Internal Revenue Service or other scams. The call center operators threaten potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, or fines if they do not pay supposed taxes, penalties, or fees. If the victims agree to pay, the call centers then turn to a network of U.S.-based co-conspirators to liquidate and launder the extorted funds by purchasing prepaid debit cards or through wire transfers, including through MoneyGram and Western Union, to the attention of fictitious names and U.S.-based defendants and their co-conspirators. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jolee Porter is prosecuting this case.
- United States v. Sean Kelly: On January 4, 2019, the defendant pled guilty to mail fraud and securities fraud. The defendant used his companies, Lion’s Share Financial of East Cobb, Inc., Lion’s Share & Associates, Inc., and Lionsshare Tax Services, LLC, to defraud his investors of at least $1 million. His victims included veterans and elderly retirees. As part of his scheme, the defendant promised that he would invest his victim’s funds in a variety of investment products, but instead spent it on personal expenses including mortgage payments, Super Bowl tickets, vacations, and large cash withdrawals. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber, Deputy Chief of the Complex Frauds Section, is prosecuting this case.
- United States v. Silvia Sanchez Valverde, et al.: These five defendants operated a sweepstakes scam that targeted the elderly. From February 2016 through September 2017, dozens of victims were contacted by telephone and told that they had won a sweepstakes or lottery. The victims were told that they could receive their sweepstakes winnings after they paid various expenses, such as taxes and fees. The victims were directed to pay the expenses to various companies controlled by the defendants. The victims then mailed payments via personal and cashier’s checks to addresses that were linked to mailboxes rented by the defendants. The defendants deposited the checks, totaling over $3.5 million, into their bank accounts and then transferred the majority of the funds to Costa Rica. The defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to five years in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly K. Connors and Cassandra J. Schansman prosecuted these cases.
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 over three fourths of one 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.
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. The Justice Department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act.
A fact-sheet with technical-support fraud case information can be found at https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1141431/download.
A fact-sheet with cases on mass mailing fraud can be found at https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1141441/download.