Fraudster Pleads Guilty to Participating in an $800,000 Elder Fraud Scam
Anderson Posed as a Bail Bondsman and Courier to Retrieve Fraud Proceeds Directly from Victims
Baltimore, Maryland – Michael Odell Anderson, age 64, of Crystal Beach, Florida and Dun Lorring, Virginia, pleaded guilty today to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in relation to his participation in an elder fraud scam.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
According to his plea agreement, from April 2020 to December 2020, Anderson conspired with others to persuade elderly victims to give them thousands of dollars under false pretenses. Specifically, members of the conspiracy called elderly victims posing as a police officer, lawyer, or relative and convinced victims to send money for the purported legal expenses of a loved one, generally a grandchild, who had been incarcerated in connection with a car accident or traffic stop involving a crime.
If victims provided cash as directed by conspirators, conspirators fabricated additional reasons for them to send more money, claiming the additional funds were necessary for their grandchild’s legal expenses, bail costs, fines, or to pay damages. Conspiracy members continued to call victims and demand additional funds, regularly obtaining tens of thousands of dollars from the retirement savings of victims. Additionally, conspirators falsely told the victims that the money they sent would be returned to them at a later date. To conceal the crime, the co-conspirators often told the victims that there had been a “gag order” placed on the case requiring secrecy and that the victim could not share the information with others.
Anderson admitted that he and other conspirators posed as bail bondsmen or couriers and received cash directly from the victims, taking approximately seven percent of the proceeds as their payment and distributing the remaining fraud proceeds to other conspirators. To conceal their identities, Anderson and the other conspirators used fake names and would not park directly in front of the victims’ homes when retrieving cash from the victims. When Anderson was recruited into the conspiracy in April 2020, he traveled to the Maryland area to perpetrate the scheme, collecting money from victims in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and other states. As part of the conspiracy, Anderson recruited additional participants to join the conspiracy and assist in retrieving cash from the victims. Anderson directed the recruited conspirators to pay him a percentage of their earnings from the fraud scheme.
For example, Anderson, posing as a bail bondsman, traveled to Sykesville, Maryland on December 4, 2020, and collected $29,000 in cash from Victim 3, who had received a call from a co-conspirator telling her that her nephew had been arrested and needed money for his bail. The next day, Victim 3 received another call and was told that she needed to pay an additional $10,000 in cash for bail money. Anderson again traveled to Victim 3’s home to collect the cash and was arrested while attempting to retrieve the money.
As a result of the scheme, Anderson and the other conspirators caused at least 49 victims to pay at least $842,670 through materially false pretenses, representation, and promises. Of that amount, approximately $578,170 was not returned to the victims
As part of his plea agreement, Anderson will be required to pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, which does not exceed $578,170 and to forfeit any property or assets derived from, or obtained as a result of, his criminal activity, including $70,327 seized from Anderson’s residence on December 18, 2020.
Anderson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 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 Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for March 16, 2023, at 11:00 a.m.
The Department of Justice runs the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311), has an interactive tool for elders who have been financially exploited to help determine to which agency they should report their incident, and also has 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 Erek L. Barron commended the FBI for its work in the investigation and thanked the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office for its assistance. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean R. Delaney, who is prosecuting the federal case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/elder-justice-initiative.
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