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Sixteen individuals indicted in relation to an international "Grandparent Scam" orchestrated from the Dominican Republic, defrauding numerous elderly Americans of millions of dollars

Once victims were swindled into giving cash, call center "dispatchers," including Rodriguez Serrano, Vasquez, Rosario Garcia, and Dilone Rodriguez, would organize a network of U.S.-based couriers to retrieve cash from elderly victims throughout the northeastern United States.

It's no secret that grandparents find it difficult to turn down their grandchildren, and unfortunately, scammers are well aware of this. These deceitful individuals exploit the personal information they acquire through various means, such as scouring social media or buying data from cybercriminals. With this information in hand, they craft elaborate stories that play on the fears of grandparents.

They go as far as impersonating a grandchild or another close family member, creating a sense of urgency in a supposed crisis and requesting immediate financial aid. To make matters worse, these scammers even manipulate the caller ID to make it seem like the call is coming from a trusted source.

Scammers often pretend to be a family member who has been in trouble, like an accident or arrest. They might ask the grandparent to keep it a secret from the parents and even pass the phone to someone pretending to be a lawyer demanding immediate payment.

It's unfortunate that scammers are now using AI technology to clone a loved one's voice with just a short audio or video clip, as reported by the Federal Trade Commission.

Various versions of the grandparent scam have emerged over time. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has a webpage dedicated to grandparent scams, featuring victims sharing their experiences to help others recognize and avoid falling victim to this deceitful scheme.

Today, the Justice Department announced that a total of sixteen individuals have been charged in connection with a widespread "grandparent scam" designed to deceive elderly Americans and steal millions of dollars from them.

• Juan Rafael Parra Arias, also known as Yofre, 41;

• Nefy Vladimir Parra Arias, also known as Keko, 39;

• Nelson Rafael Gonzalez Acevedo, also known as Nelson Tech, 35;

• Rafael Ambiorix Rodriguez Guzman, also known as Max Morgan, 59;

• Miguel Angel Fortuna Solano, also known as Botija, and Boti, 41;

• Felix Samuel Reynoso Ventura, also known as Fili, and Filly The Kid, 37;

• Carlos Javier Estevez, 45;

• Louis Junior Rodriguez Serrano, also known as Junior, 27;

• Miguel Angel Vasquez, also known as Miguel Disla, 24;

• Jovanni Antonio Rosario Garcia, also known as Porky, and Chop, 45; and

• Jose Ismael Dilone Rodriguez, 34

Yesterday, an indictment was unsealed in Newark, New Jersey, revealing a shocking scam that targeted seniors in the United States. The defendants, operating from call centers in the Dominican Republic, orchestrated a deceitful scheme known as the "grandparent" or "family in need of bail" scam.

In addition to this revelation, five more individuals have been charged with wire fraud conspiracy as part of the same scheme. These defendants, namely Endy Jose Torres Moran, Ivan Alexander Inoa Suero, Jhonny Cepeda, Ramon Hurtado, and Yuleisy Roque, acted as couriers who collected cash from the victims they defrauded in New Jersey, New York, and other locations. This elaborate operation preyed upon vulnerable seniors, but justice is now being served.

“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. “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, these 16 defendants preyed upon grandparents’ familial love and devotion, cheating them out of millions of dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Sellinger for the District of New Jersey. “In this ‘grandparents’ scam,’ the defendants allegedly impersonated grandchildren in distress, claiming, for example, they had been arrested after a car accident involving a pregnant woman who later miscarried, and they needed immediate cash for bail or a lawyer. The panic-stricken grandparents quickly paid — sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. My office is committed to protecting the rights of all victims, and we will relentlessly prosecute those who allegedly target vulnerable seniors to steal their hard-earned savings.”

“Today’s announcement stems from the defendants’s alleged heartless targeting of elderly victims who were collectively tricked into handing over millions of dollars," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Darren B. McCormack of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York.

“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.”

“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 of the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (SSA-OIG), 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.”

“These charges underscore law enforcement’s commitment to protecting our older population from fraudsters and financial exploitation,” said Commissioner Edward A. Caban of the New York Police Department (NYPD). “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.”

“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.”

The court documents and statements revealed that Juan Rafael Parra Arias, Nefy Vladimir Parra Arrias, and Gonzalez Acevedo ran a complex network of call centers in the Dominican Republic. Their targets were elderly individuals from various states such as New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. These call centers scammed hundreds of Americans, resulting in the theft of millions of dollars.

Within this scheme, the individuals involved, known as "openers," would contact elderly victims in the U.S. pretending to be their children, grandchildren, or other relatives. By using technology to manipulate the caller ID, the calls appeared to be originating from within the country. The victims were often informed that their grandchild had been in a car accident, was arrested in connection with the incident, and required financial assistance.

Openers would deceive victims into thinking their loved ones were in serious trouble, while closers, such as defendants Rodriguez Guzman, Fortuna Solano, Reynoso Ventura, and Estevez, would then pose as defense attorneys, police officers, or court personnel to persuade victims to hand over thousands of dollars in cash to assist their family members.

As per the allegations, closers would advise victims to hand the cash to couriers who were dispatched to collect the money from victims' residences. In other instances, closers would direct victims to mail the cash.

Once victims were swindled into giving cash, call center "dispatchers," including Rodriguez Serrano, Vasquez, Rosario Garcia, and Dilone Rodriguez, would organize a network of U.S.-based couriers to retrieve cash from elderly victims throughout the northeastern United States.

U.S.-based couriers, among them the five accused in the complaint, usually visited the homes of elderly victims to collect cash, frequently utilizing fake names and giving victims counterfeit receipts. Subsequently, the couriers delivered the cash to other collaborators in the scheme, who then transferred the victims' money to the Dominican Republic.

If found guilty, the defendants could potentially be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for each charge, face a maximum fine of $250,000 for each count of mail and wire fraud, and a maximum fine of $500,000 for each count of money laundering.

Deputy Assistant Attorney Rao, along with U.S. Attorney Sellinger, Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy from the FBI’s Newark Division, and Deputy Special Agent in Charge McCormack from Homeland Security Investigations New York, officially disclosed the news.

The case is currently under investigation by HIS, SSA-OIG, NYPD, and the FBI, with substantial support from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

Trial Attorneys Jason Feldman, Joshua Ferrentino, and Emily Powers from the Civil Division's Consumer Protection Branch, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Silane from the District of Jersey, are handling the prosecution.

NOTE**If you're 60 or older and have been a victim of financial fraud, don't hesitate to reach out to the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). Trained professionals are ready to assist you in assessing your needs, connecting you with reporting agencies, and providing resources on a case-by-case basis. Remember, reporting is crucial in helping authorities catch those responsible for fraud. The hotline operates Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET, offering support in English, Spanish, and other languages.



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