CEO Sentenced to Prison and Ordered to Repay Millions for Defrauding the United States in Connection with Military and Humanitarian Projects in Africa
For Further Information, Contact:
Assistant U. S. Attorney Oleksandra “Sasha” Johnson (619) 546-9769
SAN DIEGO – An Arizona woman was sentenced in federal court today to 12 months and 1 day in prison for participating in a large-scale “grandparent scam” racketeering conspiracy.
According to court documents, Lyda Harris, 75, of Laveen, Arizona, participated in a criminal enterprise that engaged in extortion and fraud to swindle more than $2 million from 70-plus elderly victims across the nation. At least 10 elderly victims who resided in San Diego County lost over $300,000 to the fraud.
From approximately November 1, 2019, until October 14, 2020, the members of the criminal enterprise contacted elderly victims by phone, feeding them phony stories that their grandchildren were in legal trouble and needed money to pay for bail, pay medical expenses for car accident victims, or prevent additional charges from being filed. Members of the conspiracy and their associates obtained money from victims through in-person cash pick-ups, by mail or commercial carriers, or via wire transfers. Conspirators laundered the proceeds by transferring the funds or converting from fiat currency to cryptocurrency.
According to court documents, Harris participated in the conspiracy from December 2019 until October 2020. Harris was arrested in the Republic of Albania in August 2021 and extradited to the United States. According to Harris’s plea agreement, her role in the criminal enterprise was to receive victim proceeds and funnel them for a coconspirator to convert from fiat currency to cryptocurrency. As part of her sentence, Harris was ordered to forfeit $6,243 in proceeds she personally received from the offense, and to pay $1,208,291.93 to the victims in restitution.
“The defendant was a crucial member of a sophisticated criminal organization that shamelessly exploited the grandparents’ love for their grandchildren,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to investigating and prosecuting fraud committed against elderly adults, and to warn the public about the dangers of elder fraud.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team, the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch and the San Diego Elder Justice Task Force for their excellent work on this case.
Lyda Harris and the criminal enterprise she was a part of chose to line their pockets at the expense of one of our most vulnerable and trusting populations,” said Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates the effectiveness of San Diego’s Elder Justice Task Force and the future crime we can deter when working with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners. We remind the public that if you believe you have been the victim of a scam, please report it to the FBI at IC3.gov
As of today, six of the eight defendants charged in the case have been sentenced. Two defendants are fugitives.
This case was investigated by the San Diego Elder Justice Task Force, which is a collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the District Attorney’s Office and all San Diego County law enforcement agencies. The Elder Justice Task Force was established in February 2021 and is believed to be the first comprehensive law enforcement effort for this purpose anywhere in the country. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch.
|DEFENDANTS||Case Number 22cr2216-CAB|
|Tracy Adrine Knowles
|Age: 30||Orlando, Florida|
|Adonis Alexis Butler Wong
|Age: 30||Northbay Village, Florida|
|Timothy Ingram, aka Bleezy
Sentenced on August 31, 2022 to 108 months in prison.
|Age: 30||North Hollywood, California|
Sentenced on November 17, 2022 to 57 months in prison.
|Age: 24||North Hollywood, California|
| Lyda Harris
Sentenced today to 12 months and 1 day in prison.
|Age: 74||Laveen, Arizona|
Sentenced on August 31, 2022, to 24 months in prison.
|Age: 46||Hollywood, Florida|
Sentenced on August 17, 2022, to 46 months in prison.
|Age: 25||Paramount, California|
Sentenced on November 17, 2022, to time served – nine days.
|Age: 35||Orlando, Florida|
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1962(d) – Conspiracy to Conduct or Participate in an Enterprise
Through a Pattern of Racketeering Activity
Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and a fine of not more than the greater of twice the amount of gain or loss associated with the offense or $250,000
Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch
San Diego Elder Justice Task Force, which includes:
San Diego FBI
San Diego County District Attorney’s Office
San Diego Police Department
San Diego Sheriff’s Department
Carlsbad Police Department
Oceanside Police Department
Escondido Police Department
Chula Vista Police Department
El Cajon Police Department
La Mesa Police Department
National City Police Department
Coronado Police Department