Peruvian Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening and Defrauding Spanish-Speaking Consumers through Call Centers
A resident of Lima, Peru, who was charged with operating call centers that lied to and threatened Spanish-speaking victims in the United States, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, the Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) announced.
Cesar Luis Kou Reyna, 40, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami to charges that he controlled call centers in Peru that falsely told Spanish-speaking victims across the United States that they owed debts and threatened legal consequences for failure to pay the alleged debts.
The announcement was made by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida and Inspector in Charge Ronald J. Verrochio of the USPIS Miami Division.
“The threats made by the defendant’s call centers harassed and intimidated Spanish-speaking victims across the United States,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer. “As this case and other recent examples show, we will track down those responsible for defrauding and threatening American consumers, no matter where the fraudster resides, what language the fraudster speaks or which population he or she targets.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s investigations have no borders when it comes to investigating crimes committed in the United States or on American victims,” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Verrochio. “Postal Inspectors will track down criminals, anywhere in the world, and bring them to justice.”
Kou Reyna owned and controlled a corporation, Fonomundo FC, which operated call centers in Peru and payment and fulfilment operations in Miami. Fonomundo FC and its affiliated call centers used Internet-based telephone calling services to place cold calls to Spanish-speaking residents in the United States. The callers falsely claimed to be attorneys and said that victims had failed to pay for or receive a delivery of products, although the victims had not ordered these products.
The callers claimed that victims would be sued and that the companies would obtain large monetary judgements against them. Some victims were also threatened with negative marks on their credit reports, imprisonment or deportation. The callers said these threatened consequences could be avoided if the victims immediately paid “settlement fees.” Many victims made monetary payments based on these threats.
Kou Reyna was originally charged by criminal complaint and was arrested by USPIS at a Houston airport on July 30 while he was traveling in the United States. He has remained incarcerated since his arrest and was indicted on Aug. 27.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer commended USPIS for its investigative efforts and thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida for its contributions to the case. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Phil Toomajian and Stephen T. Descano of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.