Peruvian Man Pleads Guilty to Operating Spanish-Speaking Call Center that Threatened and Extorted U.S. Consumers
A resident of Lima, Peru, pleaded guilty today to extortion for operating call centers that threatened Spanish-speaking victims in the United States, the Justice Department and U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced.
Omar Portocarrero Caceres, 39, was extradited from Peru in April and pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The charges against Portocarrero allege that he owned and operated a call center in Peru that falsely told Spanish-speaking victims across the United States that they had incurred debts and would suffer various consequences for failure to pay off the debts that they did not, in fact, owe.
“The Department of Justice is committed to identifying and prosecuting criminals who target and extort consumers in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Those who threaten U.S. consumers by phone cannot escape justice by placing their calls from abroad. Working with our international partners, we will bring them to justice no matter where they reside. I thank the Republic of Peru for extraditing the defendants in this case to face justice in our courts.”
Portocarrero and his co-conspirators in Peru contacted U.S. consumers, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, using Internet-based telephone calls. Claiming to be attorneys and government representatives, the callers falsely told victims that they had failed to pay for or receive a delivery of products. The callers also falsely threatened victims with lawsuits, negative marks on their credit reports, imprisonment, or immigration consequences if they did not immediately pay for the purportedly delivered products and “settlement fees.” Many victims made monetary payments based on these baseless threats.
“If an individual who claims to be an attorney or government representative calls and instructs you to pay money to: receive products you did not buy; avoid a lawsuit; avoid imprisonment; or avoid a change in immigration status, hang up and immediately report that threat to www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Ariana Fajardo Orshan. “I thank the Republic of Peru for extraditing the defendants in this case and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their unwavering commitment to investigate and pursue those who threaten U.S. consumers.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will not allow overseas criminal enterprises to illegally enrich themselves by using the U.S. Mail to defraud U.S. consumers,” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Antonio J. Gomez. “With the continued cooperation of law enforcement colleagues in countries like Peru, these criminals will be aggressively pursued and brought to justice.”
Portocarrero is the second defendant to plead guilty in connection with the scheme. Three of his co-defendants have been detained pending trial before U.S. District Court Judge Roy K. Altman in Fort Lauderdale. Judge Altman has scheduled their trial to begin on June 10, 2019.
Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch is prosecuting the case. The Postal Inspection Service investigated the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida, the Diplomatic Security Service, and the Peruvian National Police provided critical assistance.