ORLANDO, FLORIDA - A news article posted on orlandosentinel.com states that two Orlando women have been indicted in a federal case that alleges the accused women, with six other people, targeted elderly victims throughout the United States. The scammers allegedly told the elderly victims that their grandchildren were in desperate need of their financial help. The indictment states the eight suspects were part of an alleged criminal organization engaging in fraud, extortion, and money laundering. According to a media release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office Southern District of California, the team of thieves swindled over $2 million from unsuspecting victims "by feeding them phony stories that their grandchildren were in terrible trouble and needed money fast. Many of the victims lived in San Diego, California.
According to a press release issued by the acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman, the suspects committed an unconscionable crime by targeting the elderly and exploiting the love they have for their grandchildren. He also stated that elder fraud is a severe crime against the most vulnerable citizens.
The defendants include a 29-year-old Orlando woman and a 34-year-old Orlando woman. The 29-year-old suspect is currently listed as a fugitive. The 34-year-old Orlando woman was arrested back on August 17 in Orlando. She has been released on bond.
Two additional Florida residents were indicted. A 29-year-old Pembroke Pines man and a 45-year-old Hollywood woman. The 29-year-old is a fugitive, while the 45-year-old Hollywood woman was arrested in Hollywood, Florida.
Three other suspects are all California residents, and they were all arrested and denied bonds. The suspects, 29-year-old man from North Hollywood, a 23-year-old woman from North Hollywood, California, and a 24-year-old from Paramount, California. A 73-year-old female suspect was also arrested in the country of Albania. She was on a provisional arrest warrant in Laveen, Arizona. The U.S.government is seeking the extradition of the suspect, according to the Department of Justice.
All of the defendants face charges pressed under the federal RICO Act. The press release states that this case is the first time the RICO Act was used in an elder fraud case. The Department of Justice reported that the investigation began in San Diego, California, with one victim. The case then grew to several victims in at least 15 states.
According to the Department of Justice, the scam involved contacting the victims by telephone in which the Department of Justice states the suspects impersonated the victims' grandchildren or a person close to them. The suspects then pretended to be in legal trouble because of an arrest or accident, and they needed money for bail, medical expenses, or legal fees.
The Department of Justice stated that the scam included multiple "actors" performing the required roles, and they used a well-rehearsed script. The script had special instructions for the victims to hide the withdrawals of large sums of money to family and friends.
According to the press release, the grandparents were so afraid and desperate to assist that the victims gave the scammers tens of thousands of dollars. Once the victim agreed to pay the money to the scammers, the other members of the criminal enterprise were sent to the victims' houses to collect money.
In one situation, a defendant collected $33,000 from three different victims in one day. The Department of Justice has set up the National Elder Fraud Hotline for people victims over the age of 60 or family members who believe their loved ones have been a victim of financial fraud.
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