Eleventh Defendant Sentenced in $15 Million Scheme to Defraud Thousands of Spanish-Speaking United States Immigrants
A California man was sentenced to 65 months in prison for his role in conspiring with Peruvian-based call centers that defrauded Spanish-speaking United States residents by falsely threatening them with arrest, deportation, and other legal consequences. He is the eleventh defendant to be sentenced to prison in the scheme.
According to court documents, Luis Rendon, 60, of Harbor City, California, operated a distribution center that helped the call center operators execute their fraud scheme from Peru. He was part of a $15 million transnational fraud scheme aimed at defrauding Spanish-speaking residents of the United States by fraudulently threatening them with legal consequences if they did not pay for English-language learning products (products that the victims had never requested) or pay bogus “settlement fees.” More than 30,000 Spanish-speaking residents of the United States were defrauded.
“These cases demonstrate that the Consumer Protection Branch will vigorously pursue and prosecute transnational criminals who defraud vulnerable U.S. consumers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Individuals who defraud members of our immigrant communities will be brought to justice and held accountable in U.S. courts.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service works assiduously to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises targeting U.S. consumers,” said Juan A. Vargas, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service Miami Division. “Together with our law enforcement partners, we are sending a clear message to the criminals who think they are safe because they are not located in the U.S.: We will continue to aggressively pursue, arrest, and extradite those that aim to defraud U.S. consumers.”
According to court documents, Rendon owned and operated International Latin Market, a California-based distribution center that facilitated the large-scale telemarketing fraud and extortion scheme from 2011 until late 2017. Rendon aided and abetted the scheme by providing lists of prospective victims to the call centers in Peru, processing card payments from victims, and sending low-quality computer tablets pre-loaded with English language courses to victims in the Miami area and across the United States. The call centers then threatened and harassed victims to pay for the fraudulent classes, pretending to be lawyers and law enforcement officials.
With today’s sentencing, seven Peruvian call center owner-operators and four distribution center operators who processed payments and facilitated the fraud in the United States have now been sentenced. The seven call center owner-operator defendants were extradited from Peru and pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and received significant prison sentences. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. sentenced Henrry Milla, Carlos Espinoza, Jerson Renteria, Fernan Huerta, Omar Cuzcano, Evelyng Milla, and Josmell Espinoza to sentences ranging from 88 months to 110 months in prison. Two defendants who facilitated the operations of these fraudulent call centers, Milagros Urmeneta and Gonzalo Bazan, were sentenced in a related matter last year. Angel Adrianzen, who similarly operated a U.S.-based distribution center that facilitated an additional group of fraudulent Peruvian call centers that defrauded Spanish-speaking residents in the United States, was sentenced to 121 months in prison by Judge Scola in 2021.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Consumer Protection Branch investigated the case. Senior Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Trial Attorney Max Goldman of the Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the cases, and Assistant United States Attorney Annika Miranda is handling asset forfeiture. The Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the Peruvian National Police provided critical assistance.
The Department of Justice continues to investigate and bring charges in other similar matters involving threats against Spanish-speaking residents of the United States. If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its fraud enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.