Dominican National Sentenced for International E-Mail Impersonation and Fraud Scam
BOSTON – A Dominican national was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Boston in connection with his role in a conspiracy that defrauded victims by pretending to be employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Leonel Alexis Valerio Santana, 28, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 63 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution of $105,869. In May 2018, Valerio Santana pleaded guilty to two conspiracies: a conspiracy to commit money laundering, and a separate conspiracy to commit wire fraud, to impersonate a federal employee, and to misuse a government seal. In January 2018, Valerio Santana was arrested and charged by criminal complaint along with co-conspirator Frank Gregory Cedeno, 27, of Ocoee, Florida. Cedeno was indicted in March 2018 and has pleaded not guilty.
For approximately two years beginning no later than June 2015, Valerio Santana conspired with others to defraud victims by pretending to be employees of the SEC. In that guise, members of the conspiracy demanded money from victims and directed them to send it to members of the conspiracy, including members in Boston. The conspirators who received the money generally withdrew it from bank accounts quickly, then forwarded much of it to individuals in the Dominican Republic, including to Valerio Santana. In one common version of the scam, victims received e-mails that used official-seeming documentation with the SEC seal to support a false claim that the victim must pay a fee in order to receive a portion of a legal settlement. In another version of the scheme, victims received e-mails and official-seeming documents labeling the victim as a defendant in a civil lawsuit alleging that the victim owed tens of thousands of dollars in supposed disgorgement, penalties and fees. The documents gave the victim a choice of either appearing in court to contest the lawsuit or paying a smaller fee. The e-mails in this scheme came from e-mail addresses designed to look official, addresses including, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Valerio Santana was responsible for recruiting people who received money transfers from victims and then forwarded the money to conspirators in the Dominican Republic, including, at times, to Valerio Santana himself. Valerio Santana recruited several of these money couriers, primarily in the Boston area. Over the course of Valerio Santana’s participation in the scheme, the couriers he recruited received $105,869 in victim funds; however, the total solicitations from those victims were even greater, reaching approximately $283,874 in intended loss.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Carl W. Hoecker, Inspector General of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Office of Inspector General; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian A. Pérez‑Daple of Lelling’s Criminal Division is prosecuting the cases.
The details contained in the court documents are allegations. The remaining defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.