6 arrested in Florida after allegedly stealing nearly $250K from seniors during ‘grandparent scams’

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Six alleged fraudsters were arrested in Florida for stealing nearly $250,000 from senior citizens in the state through “grandparent scams,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced Monday.

The suspects reached out to seniors claiming to be one of their grandchildren’s lawyers and told the victims that the grandchild needed bail money after being arrested for hitting a pregnant woman with a vehicle, Moody said. The suspects then arranged for the victim to send them money.

All six suspects – Jairo Izquierdo, Gennesis Castro, Wendy Angelina Ortiz, Ada Tido, Wandy Castro and Olfa Cornielle – are charged with multiple first-degree felonies, including organized scheme to defraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal identification.

“These fraudsters know that most grandparents would do anything to help a grandchild in need, and through a convincing imposter scheme they used fear and family to extort Florida seniors—stealing nearly a quarter of a million dollars,” Moody said in a news release. “Working with our great law enforcement partners in South Florida, we were able to shut down this far-reaching grandparent scheme and now six fraudsters will have to answer for their crimes.”

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After telling the victims the fabricated story about the grandchildren, the alleged fraudsters would pressure the seniors to provide bail money.

The suspects instructed the victims to produce the bail amount in cash and place it in a box that would be picked up by couriers – unknowing ride-share drivers requested by the suspects – who then transported the cash to an arranged location, according to investigators.

“I am immensely proud of the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Vice Intelligence Squad, for their exceptional collaboration with the Florida Attorney General, and federal agencies in successfully apprehending individuals involved in extorting the elderly population,” Miami-Dade Police Department Director Stephanie V. Daniels said in the release. “Their dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment to protecting our community’s most vulnerable population are truly commendable.”

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In some instances, the suspects contacted the same victim multiple times to demand more cash.

In one case, one of the seniors paid $9,000 before later being told that the pregnant woman miscarried her baby and an additional $18,000 was needed due to upgraded charges. 

The suspects then told the same victim that the baby’s father attacked the victim’s grandson for causing the miscarriage and that the grandchild elbowed a police officer during the attack, prompting a need for another $20,000 for bail, as well as $7,500 in court fees. The alleged fraudsters received more than $54,000.

A similar situation happened to another senior, who paid the scammers $53,000.

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In another instance, a victim paid $8,000 and the suspects reached out again the following day asking for another $4,000 for the grandson’s bail after claiming the pregnant woman lost her baby. The next day, the suspects claimed the grandson owed medical bills because of the incident and requested another $1,700.

Another victim paid $30,000 for bail and later sent an additional $7,000 after the fraudsters claimed the pregnant woman died, causing the bond to increase.

The suspects targeted seniors in multiple counties, including Brevard, Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Sarasota.

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