Five Peruvians Extradited For Overseeing Call Centers That Threatened And Defrauded Spanish-Speaking U.S. Consumers

Five residents of Lima, Peru, were extradited to the United States and made their initial appearances in Miami federal court, where they stand accused of operating a large fraud and extortion scheme targeting Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States, the Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced today.

“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will pursue and prosecute transnational criminals who defraud U.S. consumers, wherever they are,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark.  “Criminals who defraud and threaten U.S. consumers by phone will not escape justice by placing their calls from abroad.  I thank the Republic of Peru for extraditing these individuals to face charges here in the United States.”  

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) will not allow overseas criminal enterprises to illegally enrich themselves by using the mail to defraud consumers in the United States,” said USPIS Miami Division Inspector in Charge Antonio J. Gomez. “With the continued cooperation of foreign governments, these criminals will be aggressively pursued and brought to justice.”

Henrry Milla Campuzano, 36; Fernan Huerta Haro, 33; Evelyng Milla Campuzano, 35; Jerson Renteria Gonzales, 37; and Omar Cuzcano Marroquin, 32; all of Lima, Peru, face a 55-count indictment charging them with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and extortion.  The indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in June 2018 and unsealed upon the defendants’ extradition to the United States. 

According to the indictment, the defendants managed and operated a series of connected Peruvian call centers that used Internet-based telephone calls to contact Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States.  The call centers falsely told consumers they had won raffles for free products, including computer tablets with English-language courses.  Many consumer victims expressed interest in receiving the free products.  In later calls, those victims—many of whom were elderly — were told they were required to make large payments to receive the products.  When victims objected, the callers misrepresented that the victims had unlawfully failed to pay for or receive delivery of products. 

According to the indictment, the defendants and their employees falsely claimed to be lawyers, court officials, federal agents, and representatives of a supposed “minor crimes court.”  The defendants and their employees falsely told victims that they had a contractual obligation to pay for and receive products and had caused legal problems for themselves and others by allegedly failing to do so.  The indictment alleges that the callers also falsely threatened victims with court proceedings, negative marks on their credit reports, imprisonment, or immigration consequences if they did not immediately pay for the purportedly delivered products and settlement fees.  According to the indictment, many victims paid because of these baseless threats, and the defendants and their co-conspirators fraudulently collected over $3 million in victim payments. 

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch.  The USPIS investigated the case.  The Department of Justice’s Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida, the Diplomatic Security Service, and the Peruvian National Police provided critical assistance. 

Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, the Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors.  In January 2020, the department designated “Preventing and Disrupting Transnational Elder Fraud” as an Agency Priority Goal, one of its top four priorities.  Later, in March 2020, the department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 400 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep.  The department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act. 

The department’s extensive and broad-based efforts to combat elder fraud seek to halt the billions of dollars senior lose to fraud schemes, including those perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations.  The best method for prevention, however, is by sharing information about the various types of elder fraud schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors, and other seniors who can use that information to protect themselves.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who 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 staffed 7 days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. eastern time. English, Spanish and other languages are available.

For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch

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    Eight federal programs addressing chemical safety or security from four departments or agencies that GAO reviewed contain requirements or guidance that generally align with at least half of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) 18 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program standards. At least 550 of 3,300 (16 percent) facilities subject to the CFATS program are also subject to other federal programs. Analyses of CFATS and these eight programs indicate that some overlap, duplication, and fragmentation exists, depending on the program or programs to which a facility is subject. For example, six federal programs' requirements or guidance indicate some duplication with CFATS. CFATS program officials acknowledge similarities among these programs' requirements or guidance, some of which are duplicative, and said that the CFATS program allows facilities to meet CFATS program standards by providing information they prepared for other programs. more than 1,600 public water systems or wastewater treatment facilities are excluded under the CFATS statute, leading to fragmentation. While such facilities are subject to other programs, those programs collectively do not contain requirements or guidance that align with four CFATS standards. According to DHS, public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities are frequently subject to safety regulations that may have some security value, but in most cases, these facilities are not required to implement security measures commensurate to their level of security risk, which may lead to potential security gaps. The departments and agencies responsible for all nine of these chemical safety and security programs—four of which are managed by DHS, three by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and one each managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Department of Transportation (DOT)—have previously worked together to enhance information collection and sharing in response to Executive Order 13650, issued in 2013. This Executive Order directed these programs to take actions related to improving federal agency coordination and information sharing. However, these programs have not identified which facilities are subject to multiple programs, such that facilities may be unnecessarily developing duplicative information to comply with multiple programs. Although CFATS allows facilities to use information they prepared for other programs, CFATS program guidance does not specify what information facilities can reuse. Finally, DHS and EPA leaders acknowledged that there are differences between CFATS requirements and the security requirements for public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities, but they have not assessed the extent to which potential security gaps may exist. By leveraging collaboration established through the existing Executive Order working group, the CFATS program and chemical safety and security partners would be better positioned to minimize unnecessary duplication between CFATS and other programs and better ensure the security of facilities currently subject to fragmented requirements. Facilities with hazardous chemicals could be targeted by terrorists to inflict mass casualties or damage. Federal regulations applicable to chemical safety and security have evolved over time as authorizing statutes and regulations established programs for different purposes, such as safety versus security, and with different enforcement authorities. GAO has reported that such programs may be able to achieve greater efficiency where overlap exists by reducing duplication and better managing fragmentation. GAO was asked to review issues related to the effects that overlap, duplication, and fragmentation among the multiple federal programs may have on the security of the chemical sector. This report addresses the extent to which (1) such issues may exist between CFATS and other federal programs, and (2) the CFATS program collaborates with other federal programs. GAO analyzed the most recent available data on facilities subject to nine programs from DHS, EPA, ATF, and DOT; reviewed and analyzed statutes, regulations, and program guidance; and interviewed agency officials. GAO is making seven recommendations, including that DHS, EPA, ATF, and DOT identify facilities subject to multiple programs; DHS clarify guidance; and DHS and EPA assess security gaps. Agencies generally agreed with six; EPA did not agree with the recommendation on gaps. GAO continues to believe it is valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Nathan Anderson at (206) 287-4804 or AndersonN@gao.gov.
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