Eight Individuals Indicted and Arrested for Bank and Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, and Aggravated Identity Theft
Defendants are facing a forfeiture allegation of $619,344
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On October 28, 2022, a federal grand jury returned a 40-count superseding indictment charging eight individuals with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering conspiracy. The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are in charge of the investigation of the case.
The USPIS and the FBI have been investigating a fraudulent scheme whereby the debit cards of mostly elderly clients of Banco Popular de Puerto Rico have been used in connection with the fraudulent purchase and cashing of Postal Money Orders. Specifically, between in or about October 21, 2021, through the present, Ángel De La Rosa a.k.a. “Julio Zapata” and others, posing as either federal agents or bank officials, visited the residences of account holders claiming that their bank accounts had been compromised. Under the guise of helping restore the integrity of their respective accounts, De La Rosa and others asked victims to provide their ATM debit cards and PIN numbers.
Upon obtaining physical possession of the debit cards, De La Rosa—aided and abetted by Raisa Raymundo-Vargas, a.k.a. “Oleidy”; Adonis Marquez-Marte; Josué Figueroa-López, a.k.a. “Pachin”; Mirkin Espinosa-Salvador, a.k.a. “José Mesa”; Jan González-López; Nicole Figueroa-De Jesús; Edwin Peña-Valdez, a.k.a. “Pajarito,” and others would purchase Postal Money Orders at various U.S. Post Offices throughout Puerto Rico. The Postal Money Orders were negotiated into cash at U.S. Post Offices at a later time.
Defendants De La Rosa and Marquez-Marte made cash purchases of over $40,000 worth of jewelry at various locations in New York with proceeds obtained from the fraudulent purchases of Postal Money Orders and operated a jewelry store in San Juan, Puerto Rico as a means of laundering proceeds from the fraudulent scheme.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to pursue and prosecute individuals that take advantage of others, including the elderly and other vulnerable members of our community,” said United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow. “Once again, we urge everyone to take steps to protect their personal information. Do not share your personal identification information with strangers. If you suspect that your bank account, credit card or ATH Móvil account has been compromised, call or visit your bank directly. That is the best way to avoid becoming a victim of a fraud scheme like the one involved in this case.”
“Elder fraud is a sophisticated endeavor, and it can happen to anyone. Victims will often hide their losses, even when they realize they’re being scammed, out of shame and fear of ridicule. This silence is what gives these perpetrators ample opportunity for illicit gain,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office, Joseph González. “We need to break that silence and the FBI is here to help. If you, or anyone you know, has been a victim or a witness to an elder fraud scheme, we urge you to call 787-987-6500 or submit a tip online, by visiting Tips.FBI.gov. Highlighting awareness is the key to avoid falling prey to these scams and can help you navigate a crisis such as this.”
“Protecting our senior citizens from criminals who target them is one of our highest priorities,” said Juan A. Vargas, Acting Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to ending the exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least two years for the aggravated identity theft charges. The proceeds of the fraud scheme are subject to criminal forfeiture and include a vehicle and approximately $619,344. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Alum is prosecuting the case.
Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of identity theft, or wants information about preventing identity theft, may obtain helpful information and complaint forms on the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.