Three Peruvian Nationals Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud Thousands of Spanish-Speaking U.S. Residents
Three Peruvian nationals pleaded guilty to operating a series of call centers in Peru that defrauded Spanish-speaking U.S. residents by threatening, among other things, arrest and deportation.
According to court documents, Omar Cuzcano Marroquin, 32, Jerson Renteria Gonzales, 37, and Evelyng Milla Campuzano, 35, each of Lima, Peru, conspired to commit mail fraud and wire fraud through a series of Peruvian call centers that used fraud and extortion to obtain money from Spanish-speaking individuals in the United States. The defendants and their employees falsely told victims that they were required to accept and pay for English language courses and other educational products. Victims who at first refused to make payments were threatened with serious adverse consequences, including supposed criminal court proceedings, arrest and deportation. Between April 2011 and July 2019, thousands of victims made payments based on calls from their call centers.
“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will steadfastly pursue and prosecute transnational criminals who defraud vulnerable U.S. consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department's Civil Division. “Those who impersonate U.S. government officials and use threats to prey on our recent immigrant communities will be brought to justice and held accountable in U.S. courts.”
All three defendants were arrested on July 2, 2019, by Peruvian authorities based on a U.S. extradition request, and each has remained incarcerated since that time. The defendants were extradited to the Southern District of Florida on Oct. 23, 2020.
As part of their guilty pleas, the defendants admitted that they managed and operated the Latinos en Accion, Accion Latino, and Bienestar Hispano call centers in Lima, Peru. The defendants admitted that they and their employees in Peru used internet-based telephone calls to contact Spanish-speaking residents of the United States, many of whom were recent immigrants from Central America, Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries. The callers falsely told the victims they had won raffles for free products, including computer tablets with English language courses. Many consumers expressed interest in receiving the supposedly free products and the chance to improve their English language abilities. In later calls, victims were told they were required to make large payments to receive the products. When victims objected, the callers misrepresented that the victims had unlawfully failed to pay for or receive delivery of products.
In pleading guilty, the defendants admitted that they and their employees falsely claimed to be lawyers, court officials, federal agents and representatives of a supposed “minor crimes court.” The defendants and their co-conspirators falsely told the victims that they had a contractual obligation to pay for and receive products and had caused legal problems for themselves and others by allegedly failing to do so. The callers also falsely threatened victims with court proceedings, 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 paid because of these baseless threats, and the defendants and their co-conspirators fraudulently collected millions of dollars from thousands of vulnerable victims.
“With today’s technology, fraudsters can target victims living thousands of miles away as easily as they can target next-door neighbors,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida. “This office, together with its domestic and international law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute criminals who prey on vulnerable victims within our district, no matter where those criminals are located.”
“We seek justice for victims by working collaboratively with foreign governments when investigating criminal misuse of the U.S. mail, such as these fraud and extortion schemes,” said Inspector in Charge Joseph Cronin of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to aggressively pursue transnational criminal enterprises targeting U.S. consumers.”
Cuzcano, Renteria and Milla each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Cuzcano is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Renteria and Milla are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 6 and face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Two co-defendants in this case are scheduled to go to trial in January 2022.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch investigated the case. Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian of the Consumer Protection Branch is prosecuting the case. 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 Diplomatic Security Service and the Peruvian National Police provided critical assistance.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.