Two Peruvian nationals responsible for operating a series of call centers in Peru that defrauded Spanish-speaking U.S. residents by falsely threatening them with arrest, deportation and other legal consequences pleaded guilty to federal charges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Josmell Espinoza Huerta (Josmell Espinoza), 32, and his brother Carlos Alberto Espinoza Huerta (Carlos Espinoza), 40, both from Lima, Peru, pleaded guilty for their roles in conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud through several call centers in Peru that they owned and operated.
According to court documents, Josmell and Carlos Espinoza co-owned and operated the JFC Peru call center in Peru. In addition, Josmell Espinoza owned and operated the Camino Al Progreso and Latin Shop call centers, and Carlos Espinoza separately owned and operated the Latinos en Accion and Latin Force call centers in Peru.
From April 2011 until July 2019, the Espinoza brothers and their co-conspirators in Peru called victims — many of whom were recent immigrants from Central America, Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries — and fraudulently threatened them with legal consequences if they did not make payments for purportedly delivered products and settlement fees for English-language classes. The defendants and their co-conspirators used false statements and threats to obtain money from victims across the United States by falsely telling the victims that they were required to accept and pay for English-language courses and other educational products and that failure to do so placed them in legal jeopardy. The defendants and their co-conspirators then falsely threatened to have their victims arrested and deported in order to collect payments from many vulnerable victims in southern Florida and across the United States.
In pleading guilty, both defendants admitted that they and their employees falsely claimed to be lawyers, court officials, federal agents and representatives of a so-called “minor crimes court,” which does not exist. The callers falsely threatened victims with court proceedings, negative marks on their credit reports, imprisonment and immigration consequences if they did not immediately pay for the purportedly delivered products and settlement fees. Carlos Espinoza caused victims to lose over $1.3 million, and Josmell Espinoza caused victims to lose over $700,000.
“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 immigrant communities will be brought to justice and held accountable in U.S. courts.”
“This case demonstrates that the long arm of justice has no limits when it comes to reaching fraudsters who prey on our nation’s most vulnerable populations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida. “We will continue to bring American justice to transnational criminals who use fear tactics and intimidation to steal money from immigrants, seniors and others who live in this country.”
“For many years, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and their law enforcement partners have investigated and prosecuted international criminal rings targeting U.S. consumers to steal their hard-earned money,” said Inspector in Charge Joseph Cronin of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Miami Division. “We will continue to aggressively pursue these criminals to ensure that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
With Carlos Espinoza’s guilty plea in Miami today, all seven defendants indicted in this matter have now pleaded guilty. Four of the defendants’ co-conspirators were arrested in July 2019, and another was arrested in January 2020. All five of those defendants were extradited to the Southern District of Florida in October 2020, and were sentenced to serve significant prison sentences earlier this year. Henrry Milla was sentenced to 110 months in prison, Jerson Renteria was sentenced to 100 months in prison, and Evelyng Milla, Fernan Huerta and Omar Cuzcano and were each sentenced to serve 90 months in prison.
Carlos Espinoza and Josmell Espinoza evaded arrest at the time of their co-defendants’ arrests and were subsequently located in Peru and extradited to the United States on June 25. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. will sentence Josmell Espinoza in Miami on Feb. 9, 2022, and will sentence Carlos Espinoza on Feb. 14, 2022.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch investigated the case. Senior Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Trial Attorney Max Goldman of the Consumer Protection Branch are 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 State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the Peruvian National Police provided critical assistance.
Information about the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Initiative is available at www.justice.gov/elderjustice. Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its elder fraud enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. 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).