Pennsylvania Man Pleads Guilty to International Email Impersonation and Fraud Scam
BOSTON – A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Boston in connection with a scam in which he and co-conspirators defrauded victims by pretending to be employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Frank Gregory Cedeno, 27, of Mahanoy City, Penn., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. U.S. District Court Senior Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. scheduled sentencing for March 21, 2019. In January 2018, Cedeno was charged and arrested.
From at least November 2015 through November 2017, Cedeno conspired with others to defraud victims by pretending to be employees of the SEC, demanding money from victims and directing them to send it to members of the conspiracy, including Cedeno, who was then living in Ocoee, Fla. The conspirators who received the money generally withdrew it from bank accounts quickly, then forwarded much of it to individuals in the Dominican Republic. In one common version of the scam, victims received e-mails that used official-seeming documentation and the SEC seal to induce the victim to pay a fee in order to receive a portion of a legal settlement. In another version, victims received e-mails and official-seeming documents labeling the victim a defendant in a civil lawsuit, in which 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.
In August 2018, co-conspirator Leonel Alexis Valerio Santana, 28, of Boston, was sentenced to 63 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution of $105,869 after pleading guilty to his role in the scheme.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud provides for a sentence no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss in the offense, and restitution. The charge of money laundering conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the funds involved in the money laundering, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
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’s 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 today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian A. Pérez-Daple of Lelling’s Criminal Division is prosecuting the case.