Three Men Extradited for Overseeing Call Centers that Threatened and Defrauded Spanish-Speaking U.S. Consumers
Three Peruvian men were extradited today to the United States, where they stand accused of operating a large fraud and extortion scheme, the Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced.
Johnny Enso Hidalgo Marchan, 40, of Lima, Peru; Francesco Flabio Guerra Perez, 24, of Lima, Peru; and Rodolfo Hermoza Vega, 45, of Cajamarca, Peru, will face federal charges in Miami, Florida. The three men were arrested on July 28, 2016, by Peruvian authorities based on a U.S. indictment. All three have remained incarcerated in Peru since that time.
“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will pursue and prosecute transnational criminals who defraud U.S. consumers, wherever they are,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Those who target and threaten U.S. consumers by phone will not escape justice by placing their calls from abroad. I thank the Republic of Peru for extraditing these individuals to face charges here in the United States.”
“Individuals who defraud American consumers will be brought to justice, no matter where they are located,” said U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida. “Protecting the elderly and vulnerable members of our community from schemes, such as this one, is a top priority of this Office and the Department of Justice.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will not allow overseas criminal enterprises to illegally enrich themselves by using the mail to defraud consumers in the United States,” said Miami Division Inspector in Charge, Antonio J. Gomez. “With the continued cooperation of foreign governments these criminals will be aggressively pursued and brought to justice.”
Hidalgo, Guerra, and Hermoza allegedly managed and operated Peruvian call centers called Everglades, which were based in Lima and Cajamarca, Peru, and which worked in partnership with Angeluz Florida Corporation in Miami. According to the indictment, Hidalgo, Guerra, and Hermoza, and their employees in Peru used Internet-based telephone calls to lie to and threaten Spanish-speaking victims in the United States. The callers falsely accused the victims of having failed to accept delivery of certain products and claimed that the victims owed thousands of dollars in fines and that court proceedings would be brought against them. In reality, the victims — many of whom were elderly — had never ordered these products and nothing had been delivered.
The indictment alleges that the defendants and their call center employees claimed that the consumers could resolve the supposed debts and fines if they immediately paid a “settlement fee.” Consumers who contested these settlement fees were told that failure to pay could lead to harmed credit, arrest, deportation, or seizure of property.
A 37-count federal indictment was filed against the defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in June 2015 and was unsealed upon the defendants’ extradition to the United States. Hidalgo, Guerra, and Hermoza were charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud. Hidalgo and Guerra also face attempted extortion charges.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Two individuals previously were brought to justice in connection with this scheme. In 2014, charges were brought against Angeluz and Everglades owner-operators, Maria Luzula, of Miami and Juan Alejandro Rodriguez Cuya, of Lima, Peru. Luzula pleaded guilty to all counts against her midway through trial and was sentenced to serve 165 months in prison. Rodriguez Cuya was convicted following a two-week trial. U.S. District Court Judge Patricia A. Seitz sentenced Rodriguez Cuya to serve 210 months in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch. The U.S. 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.
Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, the Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors. In particular, this past March the Department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 260 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep. The Department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act.
More information about the Department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which can be reached at https://www.ovc.gov.