Baltimore, Maryland – McArnold Charlemagne, age 33, of Miramar, Florida, pleaded guilty today to a federal mail fraud conspiracy charge, in connection with a scheme in which he defrauded more than 65 elderly victims of more than $1.5 million.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
“This defendant was part of a heartless scheme to prey on elderly victims by falsely claiming that a family member needed money to pay legal or other expenses—sometimes pretending to be the victim’s relative to convince them to send cash to the conspirators,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who perpetrate these despicable schemes targeting elderly victims. I encourage anyone who believes they may be a victim of financial fraud to contact the Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).”
“McArnold Charlemagne was a member of a criminal conspiracy that took advantage of the emotions and bank accounts of dozens of senior citizens,” said Jennifer C. Boone, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “Criminals who prey on, and steal from, seniors should know that their actions carry real consequences, both for their victims and for themselves. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will do everything in our power to find fraudsters and hold them accountable for their crimes.”
According to Charlemagne’s plea agreement, from about January 2018 through at least December 2019, he was part of a conspiracy to defraud elderly victims by persuading them to send thousands of dollars in cash to members of the conspiracy by falsely stating that the money would be used to help the victims’ relatives pay legal or other expenses in connection with crimes and other incidents that had not occurred or that the money would be sent to particular individuals at their addresses, rather than to members of the conspiracy falsely claiming to reside at those addresses. Charlemagne’s co-conspirators telephoned elderly victims throughout the United States, posing as a police officer, lawyer, or other individual, falsely telling the victim that a relative, typically the victim’s grandchild, had been incarcerated in connection with a car accident or traffic stop involving a crime, and needed money—often tens of thousands of dollars—for bail, legal fees, and other expenses.
As detailed in the plea agreement, during the telephone calls, the co-conspirators directed victims to send cash to a particular address via an overnight delivery service. The co-conspirators allegedly even posed as the victims’ relatives to further induce them to send the cash. Once the victims did send money, the co-conspirators called the victims asking for more cash, regularly obtaining tens of thousands of dollars from the retirement savings of victims. To prevent the victims from sharing the information with anyone, the co-conspirators allegedly told the victims that a “gag order” had been placed on the case requiring secrecy, or that the situation was embarrassing for the grandchild and they didn’t want anyone else to know about it.
Charlemagne admitted that, in order to conceal the crime, he and other co-conspirators identified residential locations across the country where the cash should be sent, including in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Florida. Charlemagne and his co-conspirators identified locations that were either vacant or for sale, so that no one would be at those locations at the time of the deliveries, then retrieved the packages of cash when they were delivered. Charlemagne and other co-conspirators recruited and instructed additional people to assist in retrieving packages of cash from specified locations.
For example, Charlemagne flew from Miami, Florida to Washington, D.C. on May 28, 2018, for the purpose of retrieving packages containing fraud proceeds, renting a place to stay in the Baltimore area.
On May 30, 2018, Victim #1, 75 years old from Temperance, Michigan, received a phone call from someone pretending to be her grandson’s lawyer. Victim #1 sent two packages totaling $38,000 to addresses in Baltimore. On June 1, 2018, Charlemagne picked up the second package sent by Victim #1, then traveled to an address on North Payson Street in Baltimore, to pick up an additional package, sent from Victim #2, 78 years old from Salem, Oregon.
Victim #2 was contacted by phone by an individual purporting to be an attorney who told Victim #2 that Victim #2’s granddaughter was a passenger in a car driven by a man that was involved in a car crash and was jailed. The caller told Victim #2 that bail money was needed immediately to secure the release of Victim #2’s granddaughter. The caller warned Victim #2 not to contact anyone due to a “72 hour gag order.” Victim #2 was instructed to overnight mail $10,000 in cash to “John Miller,” who was described as an officer of the court, to an address on North Payson Street in Baltimore. Victim #2 did as instructed. The next day, the caller contacted Victim #2 again and stated that, because marijuana and a gun had been found in the car, an additional $10,000 was required. Victim #2 complied. Victim #2 was contacted again and told to send $20,000 for the victim’s medical bills, and Victim #2 complied. While authorities were not able to recover the first two packages sent by Victim #2, the third mailing containing $20,000 was intercepted by Baltimore Police and returned to Victim #2. Nonetheless, Charlemagne waited at North Payson Street for approximately 30 minutes on the morning of June 1, 2018, before catching a ride to a different address.
On June 6, 2018, Victim #3, an 83-year-old individual from Framingham, Massachusetts, received a phone call from a man who stated Victim #3’s son had caused a car crash by texting and driving and was being arrested. Victim #3 was told to send $8,000 to an address on Whittier Avenue in Baltimore in order to bail Victim #3’s son out. On June 7, 2018, Victim #3 did as instructed and sent the money via FedEx. Later that evening, Victim #3 realized the scam and called the police. The authorities were able to contact FedEx and located the package, which had already arrived in Maryland. The package was returned to Victim #3.
Charlemagne, who was still in the Baltimore area picking up packages containing fraud proceeds, learned that the package had been returned to the sender. Charlemagne contacted another co-conspirator and requested the co-conspirator travel from Miami to Massachusetts in order to wait in front of Victim #3’s house, pretend to be Victim #3, and take the package. Charlemagne texted the co-conspirator the address, a screenshot from Google Maps of where the co-conspirator should park, and a copy of the FedEx tracking number. Charlemagne told the co-conspirator that the co-conspirator needed to fly out that night to arrive in the morning, or that it would be too late. On June 8, 2018, the co-conspirator was caught outside the residence of Victim #3 in Framingham, Massachusetts, and arrested.
As a result of the execution of the scheme to defraud, Charlemagne and others caused at least 65 different victims to send a total of at least $1.5 million.
Charlemagne faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for mail fraud conspiracy. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III has scheduled sentencing for March 26, 2021, at 1:00 p.m.
The Department of Justice has an interactive tool for elders who have been financially exploited to help determine to which agency they should report their incident, and also a senior scam alert website. Victims are encouraged to file a complaint online with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at this website or by calling 1-800-225-5324. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean R. Delaney and Matthew J. Maddox, who are prosecuting the case.
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