Two Charged with Leading a Conspiracy to Defraud and Extort Spanish-Speaking Consumers Through Fraudulent Call Centers
A grand jury in Miami, Florida, indicted two individuals and two corporations for allegedly operating call centers in Peru that lied to and threatened Spanish-speaking victims into paying fraudulent settlements.
Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, U.S. Attorney Wilfredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida and U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Ronald Verrochio of the Miami Office made the announcement.
Maria Luzula, of Miami and Juan Alejandro Rodriguez Cuya, of Lima, Peru, were charged with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and extortion. Two Miami-based corporate entities – Angeluz Florida Corporation and Angeluz Miami, LLC – were charged with the same offenses.
“The Department of Justice is committed to fighting consumer fraud,” said Assistant Attorney General Delery. “Threats, misrepresentations and other predatory tactics used to rip off consumers will not be tolerated.”
“Consumer fraud that targets a specific population is shameful,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer. “In this case, the defendants are alleged to have targeted Spanish-speaking consumers and falsely threatened them with arrest, deportation, forfeiture of property or harm to their credit scores when the consumers refused to settle claims for products that were not delivered or ordered. Such tactics are intolerable. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed and stands united with the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch, to protect our consumers from fraud.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to aggressively investigate and pursue those who threaten our citizens and defraud them of their hard earned money, no matter what country they are operating from,” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Verrochio.
According to allegations in the indictment, the defendants’ employees in Peru, using Internet-based telephone calls, lied to Spanish-speaking victims in the U.S. about fines they owed and lawsuits that would be brought against the victims. Peruvian callers threatened the victims and falsely told each victim that he or she had wrongfully failed to receive a delivery of products. The callers went on to claim, again falsely, that the victims owed thousands of dollars in fines. In reality, the victims had never ordered these products and no attempts to deliver products to the victims had been made.
The indictment alleges that Luzula’s and Rodriguez Cuya’s employees claimed that the consumers could resolve the fines if they immediately paid a “settlement fee.” Consumers who contested these settlement fees were told that failure to pay could lead to arrest, deportation, forfeiture of property or harm to their credit scores. Although consumers typically objected that they did not order or refuse delivery of any products, thousands still agreed to pay the fees due to these threats. The indictment alleges that a phone room in Miami collected the fees.
Luzula and Rodriguez Cuya originally were charged by criminal complaint and arrested on Jan. 10, 2013. They have remained incarcerated since their arrests.
The charges in the indictment are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Assistant Attorney General Delery commended the Postal Inspection Service for their investigative efforts and thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida for their contributions to the case. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Assistant Director Richard Goldberg with the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch.