Spanish Native Sentenced for Defrauding Charities and Law Firms
BOSTON – A Spanish native residing in Quincy was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for using counterfeit cashier’s checks to defraud victims, including charities and law firms, of nearly $1 million.
Manuel Ponce Vazquez, 60, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani to 31 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution of over $995,000. Ponce Vazquez, a Spanish citizen, will face removal proceedings upon the completion of his sentence. In July 2016, Ponce Vazquez pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.
Beginning around August 2013, Ponce Vazquez and his co-conspirators defrauded law firms and non-profits, including charities, by sending them fraudulent cashier’s checks and convincing them to wire money to Ponce Vazquez, and others, with the false assurance that the fake checks would cover the expense.
When Ponce Vazquez and his co-conspirators targeted charities, they pretended to be donors who accidentally donated more than they intended. For example, Ponce Vazquez would mail the charity fraudulent cashier’s checks that purported to be donations. To pressure the charities to return the excess donation immediately, co-conspirators told the charities, among other things, that the money was needed to fund surgery for a young girl “to better her chances of living” through a “life threatening situation.” The conspirators asked that the money be sent to associates, including Ponce Vazquez. Only after the charities complied did they discover the cashier’s check representing the original “donation” was fraudulent.
When law firms were targeted, the conspirators pretended to be new clients in need of help collecting a debt. Before the firms took any action to collect the supposed debt, they received counterfeit cashier’s checks, ostensibly from the debtors, fully repaying the debt. At the direction of one of Ponce Vazquez’s co-conspirators, the firms forwarded the majority of the checks’ purported value to a bank account that Ponce Vazquez controlled, unwittingly paying Ponce Vazquez using the firms’ own money.
Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Shelly Binkowski, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement today. Assistance was also provided by the Braintree Police Department and the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian A. Pérez-Daple of Weinreb’s Economic Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.