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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office and law enforcement partners take action against money mules in order to disrupt transnational fraud schemes and educate the public

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida

MIAMI – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, alongside its law enforcement partners to include FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), are committed to educating the public regarding the Money Mule Initiative, an annual campaign to identify, disrupt, and criminally prosecute networks of individuals who transmit funds from fraud victims to international fraudsters. Fraudsters rely on money mules to facilitate a range of fraud schemes, including those that predominantly impact older Americans, such as lottery fraud, romance scams and grandparent scams as well as those that target businesses or government pandemic funds.

Law enforcement continues to take action to stop money mules responsible for facilitating a range of fraud schemes. Acts include criminal prosecutions designed to punish those intentionally assisting fraudsters and warning letters intended to advise those who may have been unknowingly recruited by fraudsters. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners continue to engage in outreach in order to educate the public about how fraudsters use money mules and how to avoid unknowingly assisting fraud by receiving and transferring money.

Many money mules begin as victims of romance or lottery scams and are unknowingly lured by fraudsters into transmitting fraud proceeds based on lies. Other money mules are recruited into what they initially believe to be legitimate work-at-home jobs.

“Our Office is committed to dismantling criminal networks, to include those designed to inflict financial harm upon older Americans,” said U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida. “We will continue to work with our federal partners to disrupt money mule networks, educate consumers about scams, and prosecute criminals who defraud the public. Our goal is to keep money out of the hands of domestic and international fraudsters and in the pockets and bank accounts of the South Florida residents and visitors we serve.”

“Money mules help criminals launder illicit proceeds derived from online scams, financial frauds, drug trafficking, or other crimes to make it harder for law enforcement to accurately trace,” said Jeffrey B. Veltri, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami Field Office. “To be very clear, acting as a money mule is illegal. Go to FBI.GOV to learn more about this growing and pernicious problem.”

“The U.S. Secret Service remains dedicated to combatting financial crimes, including those involving money mules who unwittingly aid fraudsters in scams that target the elderly”, said Rafael Barros Special Agent in Charge of the U.S Secret Service, Miami Field Office. “By working closely with our law enforcement partners, we are committed to disrupting criminal networks and protecting the public from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes."

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida has charged and will continue to charge defendants criminally for knowingly receiving and forwarding victim funds or otherwise laundering fraud proceeds. These cases include:

  • Daphne De la Caridad Gonzalez, 23, of Miami, Florida, and Neovordo Gordon, 24, and Collins Oleh, 24, both of Pembroke Pines, Florida, were charged for their involvement in a money laundering conspiracy that spanned multiple continents and millions of dollars. According to court documents, federal agents began investigating a bank impersonation scheme in 2022. It is alleged that to facilitate the scheme a fraudster(s) would contact small business owners and impersonate their bank representatives to coerce them into giving sensitive bank account information. The fraudster(s) would then use the victim’s bank account information to log into the victim’s accounts and initiate wire transfers from the victim’s bank accounts into the accounts of various money launderers. According to allegations in the charging documents, Gonzalez, Gordon, and Oleh were among the money launderers that received fraud proceeds from the victim’s bank accounts. They would receive the funds themselves or assist others that they recruited in receiving the funds and withdrawing the money, keeping a portion and directing a portion back to the fraudster. 

Gonzalez pled guilty and, on April 26, 2024, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for her role in the conspiracy, wherein she laundered between $1.5 million and $3.5 million dollars (Case No. 23-CR-20467). Gordon pled guilty on March 18, 2024, to laundering between $3.5 and $9.5 million dollars.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 26, 2024 (Case No. 23-CR-20399).

Oleh is scheduled for trial on July 1, 2024 (Case No. 23-CR-20399). A criminal complaint and an indictment contain allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

U.S. Secret Service and FDIC-OIG investigated the cases. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Moore and Michael Brenner are prosecuting the cases. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabrielle Raemy Charest-Turken is handling asset forfeiture.

  • Michael Gonzalez, 30, a Venezuelan national residing in Doral, Florida, was charged via superseding indictment with conspiring with two other men to commit money laundering (Case No. 20-CR-20515). According to Court records filed at the time of the co-conspirators’ guilty pleas, between 2018 and 2019 Gonzalez directed Jose Manuel Samame and Leonardo Villa Lazo to open bank accounts in South Florida in order to receive and withdraw hundreds of thousands of dollars sent by fraud victims around the country. The victims believed they were paying for goods and services they purchased via eBay,, AirBNB, and other online marketplaces. Of course, the victims never actually received the goods and services, which included vintage automobiles, commercial vehicles, and short-term vacation rental homes.

According to Samame and Villa Lazo’s plea agreements, Gonzalez directed them to withdraw and transfer the victims’ money and to invite friends to participate in the scheme. Gonzalez assured Samame that the money came from a “fake website scam” and would “jump around,” thus ensuring the money mules would not get caught, according to the facts admitted by Samame during his guilty plea. In total, Gonzalez, Samame, and Villa Lazo, recruited at least four additional, high-school-age participants to receive, withdraw, and transfer the victims’ funds.

Samame, 25, and Villa Lazo, 24, each pled guilty on Feb. 10, 2021, to money laundering conspiracy charges. They received sentences of 18 and 13 months’ imprisonment, respectively, and were ordered to pay $127,646.00 in restitution to their victims.

Gonzalez is scheduled for trial on July 8, 2024. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

FBI Miami investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Browne is prosecuting it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling asset forfeiture matters.

Consumers are encouraged to be on the lookout for signs someone is trying to recruit them to receive and transmit fraud proceeds. Do not agree to receive money or checks mailed to you or sent to your bank account for someone you have met over the phone or online. Do not open a bank or cryptocurrency account at someone else’s direction. Fraudsters will lie to persuade you to help them. They may falsely tell you that they are helping you get a lottery prize, initiate a purported romantic relationship and then tell you that they need money, or pretend to offer you a job, an opportunity to invest in a business venture, or the chance to help in a charitable effort.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish, and other languages are available. The Federal Trade Commission also provides a hotline at 877-FTC-HELP and a website at to receive consumer complaints.

More information about the Department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit The Justice Department provides information about a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which are available at

You may find a copy of this press release (and any updates) on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or at



Public Affairs Unit

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Southern District of Florida

Updated May 17, 2024

Financial Fraud