A federal grand jury charged a New York man for having acted as a courier for a Dominican Republic-based “grandparent scam” that targeted elderly Americans.

Victor Anthony Valdez, 39, of the Bronx, was charged with one count of wire fraud conspiracy for his role in the scam. According to the indictment, unsealed today in Newark, New Jersey, the scam operated from call centers in the Dominican Republic, making phone calls to elderly American victims purporting to be the victim’s grandchild, an attorney representing the grandchild in criminal proceedings, court personnel or other persons associated with the legal system. Coconspirators told the victims that their grandchildren had been arrested and needed cash for bail or other expenses. Once victims were convinced through lies and falsehoods, coconspirators instructed the victims to provide cash to couriers, including Valdez, who went to victims’ homes to pick up the money.

While acting as a courier for the scam between August 2020 and August 2021, Valdez is alleged to have retrieved, or attempted to retrieve, tens of thousands of dollars from defrauded victims at their homes in New York and New Jersey.

“The Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and its law enforcement partners will vigorously pursue individuals who prey on vulnerable and elderly victims through fraudulent schemes,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to identify perpetrators of these schemes and prioritize the pursuit of those who deliberately target vulnerable consumers, whether located in the United States or abroad.”

“The alleged perpetrators in these scams — including this defendant — target our vulnerable senior population,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey. “They count on the grandparents’ love and devotion to their families in order to convince them to put up money. As alleged in this indictment, the defendant today worked as a courier, traveling to the homes of the scam victims to pick up the money. My office will protect the rights of all victims, and we will relentlessly prosecute those who allegedly target the vulnerable to cheat them out of their savings.”

“Mr. Valdez knowingly preyed upon the elderly for his own gain,” said Inspector General Gail S. Ennis for the Social Security Administration (SSA). “We appreciate our law enforcement partners joining us in investigating and prosecuting these complex, international scams aimed at defrauding elderly Americans, many of whom rely on SSA benefits to make ends meet.”

If convicted, Valdez faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

SSA’s Office of the Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Joshua Ferrentino of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Silane for the District of Jersey are prosecuting the case.

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 at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), 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.

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 www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.reportfraud.ftc.gov/ or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Justice Department provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through OVC, which can be reached at www.ovc.gov.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.



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