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Press Release

Brooklyn Man Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Defrauding Elderly Victims Across New York State

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

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ALLAH JUSTICE MCQUEEN pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud in connection with a scheme that targeted and victimized elderly people across New York State.  MCQUEEN, who was arrested in December 2014, entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dolinger.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Allah Justice McQueen had a key role in a conspiracy that preyed on the emotions of vulnerable grandparents, falsely convincing them that their grandchildren were in legal trouble and needed bail money.  With his guilty plea, McQueen will be held to account for his role in a heartless scheme that exploited familial love for personal gain.”         

According to the Complaint, Superseding Indictment, and plea proceeding:

In or about August and September 2013, MCQUEEN and his co-conspirators perpetrated a scheme to defraud elderly victims around the United States by tricking them into believing their grandchildren had been imprisoned and needed immediate bail money.  In particular, in each case, a member of the conspiracy contacted the victim by phone, purported to be a law enforcement official or attorney, and falsely claimed that the victim’s grandchild had been taken into custody for a narcotics offense and would not be released unless the victim paid thousands of dollars, and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars, in purported bail money.  A member of the conspiracy also frequently posed on the call as the victim’s grandchild, typically crying and pleading with the elderly victim to send money to secure the grandchild’s release from jail, and asking the victim not to contact any other family members because the grandchild felt ashamed.  In each case, in extreme distress, the victim sent thousands of dollars, at a minimum, as instructed, to certain individuals who, among other things, provided that money to MCQUEEN at his direction.  In each case, after paying the “bail” money as directed, the victim directly contacted his or her grandchild and thereupon learned that the grandchild had not, in fact, been arrested, that the grandchild knew nothing about the claims made on the call to the victim, and that the call was fraudulent.

For example, a 79-year-old victim in New York received a phone call in August 2013 from an individual who identified himself as a police sergeant and claimed that the victim’s grandson had been arrested after drugs were discovered in a car in which the grandson was a passenger.  The purported sergeant said the grandson would be released if the victim sent $6,000 in bail money as directed.  The victim, who briefly heard, on the phone, an individual who sounded like the victim’s grandson, wired the money as directed.  The victim subsequently spoke directly with the victim’s grandson, and learned that he had not been arrested, and knew nothing about the purported sergeant or the basis for his request for bail money.  The victim never received any money back from the purported sergeant. 

In fact, the victim’s money was wired to particular individuals working with and at the direction of MCQUEEN who collected the wired funds on MCQUEEN’s behalf and provided the money to MCQUEEN and his co-conspirators.  As to a portion of the victim’s money, MCQUEEN appeared personally at a particular location in Brooklyn to arrange for the collection of the proceeds.  MCQUEEN subsequently deposited another portion of the money sent by the victim directly into his personal bank account.

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MCQUEEN, 33, of Brooklyn, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud.  He faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.  Sentencing has been scheduled for November 2, 2015, at 4:30 p.m., before U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the Bronx District Attorney’s Office for its assistance.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Elisha Kobre is in charge of the prosecution.

Updated July 6, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-170