SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On October 28, 2022, a federal grand jury returned a 40-count superseding indictment charging eight people with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, fraud on access devices, aggravated identity theft and money laundering conspiracy. The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are investigating the case.
The USPIS and the FBI investigated a fraudulent scheme in which the debit cards of mostly elderly Banco Popular de Puerto Rico customers were used in connection with the fraudulent purchase and cashing of money orders. Specifically, on or around October 21, 2021, Ángel De La Rosa aka “Julio Zapata” and others, posing as federal agents or bank officials, visited the residences of account holders claiming that their bank accounts had been compromised. . Under the guise of helping restore the integrity of their respective accounts, De La Rosa and others asked the victims to provide their debit cards and PINs.
After obtaining physical possession of the debit cards, De La Rosa, aided and abetted by Raisa Raymundo-Vargas, aka “Oleidy”; Adonis Marquez-Marte; Josué Figueroa-López, alias “Pachin”; Mirkin Espinosa-Salvador, alias “José Mesa”; Jan González-López; Nicole Figueroa-De Jesus; Edwin Peña-Valdez, aka “Pajarito”, and others were buying money orders at various U.S. post offices in Puerto Rico. Money orders were traded in cash at U.S. post offices later.
Defendants De La Rosa and Marquez-Marte purchased cash for over $40,000 worth of jewelry at various locations in New York City with the proceeds obtained from fraudulent money order purchases and operated a jewelry store in San Juan, Puerto Rico as a means money laundering product of the fraudulent scheme.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to pursue and prosecute those who take advantage of others, including the elderly and other vulnerable members of our community,” U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow said. “Once again, we urge everyone to take steps to protect their personal information. Do not share your personally identifiable information with strangers. If you think your bank account, credit card or ATH Móvil account has been compromised, call or go directly to your bank. This is the best way to avoid falling victim to a fraudulent scheme like the one involved in this case.
“Elderly fraud is a sophisticated business, and it can happen to anyone. Victims often hide their losses, even when they realize they are being scammed, out of shame and fear of ridicule. This silence is what gives these perpetrators many opportunities for illicit gain,” said Joseph González, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Field Office in San Juan. “We need to break this silence and the FBI is here to help. If you, or someone you know, has experienced or witnessed a senior citizen fraud scheme, we encourage you to call 787-987-6500 or submit a report online by visiting Tips.FBI .gov. Awareness is the key to avoiding falling prey to these scams and can help you get through a crisis like this.
“Protecting our seniors from the criminals who target them is one of our highest priorities,” said Juan A. Vargas, Acting Inspector-in-Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division. “The United States Postal Inspection Service is committed to ending the exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least two years for the aggravated identity theft charges. The proceeds of the fraudulent scheme are subject to criminal forfeiture and include a vehicle and approximately $619,344. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant United States Attorney Alexander Alum is prosecuting the case.
Anyone who thinks they have been the victim of identity theft or wants information about preventing identity theft can get helpful information and complaint forms from the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
An indictment is only an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court.