Federal Grand Jury Indicts 27 Individuals for Roles in a Fraudulent Scheme to Obtain COVID-19 Relief Funds
SAN JUAN, P.R. - On March 13, FBI agents arrested Wilson Nieves-Santiago who is facing 27 counts of bank fraud and two counts of money laundering, announced United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, W. Stephen Muldrow.
The indictment alleges that defendant Nieves-Santiago, starting in or around the year 2015, became a caretaker of C.B.R., and elderly female, and her late husband, M.L.R., in Dorado, Puerto Rico, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As part of his responsibilities, Nieves-Santiago would drive C.B.R., run errands, assist her in cleaning, paying bills, and depositing checks. The defendant had online access to C.B.R.’s bank accounts and credit cards, and would pay the victim’s expenses with them.
On or about April 29, 2015, Nieves-Santiago opened a joint bank account with C.B.R. at PNC Bank. This particular account was managed and controlled solely by the defendant. The indictment charges that Nieves-Santiago began diverting monies belonging to C.B.R. to the joint bank account in February of 2018. The defendant was entitled to salary of $2,170 every two weeks, paid from a trust account. As part of the scheme, Nieves-Santiago would sometimes transfer funds, or endorse checks for an additional $2,170 from C.B.R.’s account without her authorization, in an effort to conceal the payment and make it appear as if it were part of the defendant’s regular salary. Nieves-Santiago electronically transferred large sums of money from C.B.R.’s account into the PNC Bank account he controlled without the victim’s authorization.
Counts one through 24 include the checks that Nieves-Santiago deposited into the account he solely controlled, for a total of $170,867.63. Counts 25 and 26 are the money laundering charges that include two electronic transfers deposited into the same account for a total of $86,000.
Defendant Nieves-Santiago is facing a bank fraud and money laundering forfeiture allegation that includes $261,007.63; a two-door 2018 ford Mustang Coupe; and a white 2018 Hyundai Accent coupe.
“The egregious behavior of those who exploit our banking system or its clients for personal and criminal gain will not be tolerated,” said United States Attorney Muldrow. “We will continue to aggressively pursue criminals who victimize and financially exploit our senior citizens.”
“Bank fraud and money laundering come in many different forms. Here it came in the form of a cruel violation of the trust two elderly persons put in the defendant. The FBI is appalled by this behavior and is committed to continue in pursuit of these criminal actors in collaboration with the United States Attorney’s Office and our local state and federal law enforcement partners.” - said Rafael A. Riviere Vázquez, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Juan Field Office.
If convicted, Nieves-Santiago could face a maximum penalty of 30 years of imprisonment and a fine of $1,000,000 for the bank fraud charges, and a maximum penalty of up to 10 years of imprisonment for the money laundering charges. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The prosecution of this case is assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward G. Veronda.
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