Two individuals were arrested on a federal warrant alleging that they operated a series of fraudulent businesses targeting Spanish-speaking consumers, the Justice Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced today. The criminal complaint, charging Daniel Carrasco, 54, of Miramar, Fla., and Federico Martin Gioja, 45, also of Miramar, alleges that the pair incorporated, owned, and ran Florida companies that used a phone room in Argentina to extract money from consumers using lies and extortion.
In addition to the criminal complaint, the Justice Department filed a civil case against Carrasco, Gioja, Romina Tasso and their businesses, seeking an injunction to prevent further fraud and an asset freeze to prevent dissipation of funds obtained from consumers.
Carrasco and Gioja will make their first appearances in court today.
According to the civil complaint and the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, the case was the result of a referral from Spanish-language television station, Univision. Companies belonging to Carrasco and Gioja are alleged to have falsely claimed an affiliation with Univision and purported to sell products such as vitamins, lotions, medical insurance, and English-language training products. However, according to the documents, the companies frequently did not deliver products ordered by consumers. The companies allegedly did not have many of the products they promised to send to consumers, and so consumers received other products instead.
According to the civil and criminal complaints, after consumers refused delivery of the companies’ shipments, employees of the Argentinian phone room used by Carrasco and Gioja called and falsely threatened the consumers with arrest, deportation, or fines on their gas and electric bills.
“This case demonstrates our commitment to use every tool at our disposal -- including asset freezes, injunctive relief, and criminal prosecution -- against companies that seek to lie, extort, threaten, and defraud Americans,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Protecting consumers from fraud continues to be a top priority for the Department of Justice.”
According to the criminal and civil complaints, Carrasco and Gioja routinely changed the names of the companies under which they did business to evade complaints, regulators, and law enforcement. The businesses allegedly were contacted by a variety of state agencies regarding their illicit practices. In emails cited in the affidavit in support of arrest, those working with Carrasco and Gioja referred to companies tainted by complaints as “burnt.” Rather than changing their practices, the defendants allegedly incorporated new companies and started the same illegal practices again.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “These defendants specifically targeted Spanish-speaking victims, pretending to be affiliated with the Univision television network, to sell their products from their phone room in Argentina. In fact, however, the defendants had absolutely no connection to Univision, and their companies did not deliver the products ordered by consumers. As this case illustrates, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to investigating and prosecuting fraudsters, both domestic and international, whose schemes defraud American consumers.”
“Postal Inspectors will continue to investigate cases involving fraud against consumers and will vigorously pursue those individuals who use the mail in furtherance of their criminal schemes,” said Ronald Verrochio, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge in Miami.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Delery commended the investigative efforts of the Postal Inspection Service, and thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida for their contributions to the case. The civil case is being handled by Trial Attorney Jessica Gunder of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant Director Richard Goldberg with the Consumer Protection Branch.
A criminal complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A civil complaint contains allegations only and the defendants will have the opportunity to challenge those allegations in court.