Two members of a network that organized and facilitated a large-scale “grandparent scam” pleaded guilty to conspiracy to extort. Timothy Ingram, aka Bleezy, 29, of North Hollywood, California, pleaded guilty March 2, and Jack Owuor, 25, of Paramount, California, pleaded guilty March 9.
According to court documents, Ingram and Owuor were members and associates of a network of people who used extortion and fraud to trick elderly Americans in the United States into paying thousands to tens of thousands of dollars each, allegedly to help their grandchild or other close family relative. Members of the network contacted older Americans by phone, posing as the victim’s grandchildren, other close relatives, or friends. They falsely convinced victims that their loved ones were in legal trouble and needed money to pay bail, pay medical expenses for car crash victims, or avoid additional charges. The defendants and their co-conspirators then received money from the victims in a variety of ways, including pickup in person, mail, and wire transfer, and laundered the proceeds, including through cryptocurrency.
“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Division will pursue and prosecute individuals who are systematically targeting older Americans by exploiting their concern for their loved ones,” said Brian Boynton, deputy assistant attorney general, chief of the Justice Department’s civilian division. “We thank our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California and the FBI for their work advancing the department’s efforts against Organized Elderly Fraud, as well as the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.”
“These defendants exploited the sacred bond between grandparents and grandchildren, leaving many victims financially and emotionally traumatized,” said US Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California. “We will vigorously investigate and bring to justice those who exploit the elderly.”
“These guilty pleas are an excellent example of the collaboration and coordination between our local, state and federal partners who make up the San Diego Elder Justice Task Force and the great work being done to protect our elderly population,” she said Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office. “The Task Force seeks to aggressively pursue criminal organizations that take advantage of our seniors and will use all available investigative tools to bring them to justice. I also want to thank the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office for their continued support in this case.”
Ingram and Owuor pleaded guilty to conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Ingram is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27. Owuor is due to be sentenced on June 3. Both face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine the sentence after considering US sentencing guidelines and other legal factors. Four co-accused are still in court. Two other defendants have been charged but remain at large.
The case was being investigated by the FBI’s San Diego branch, North County Resident Agency, with critical assistance from investigators from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
Trial Attorneys Lauren M. Elfner and Wei Xiang of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Division and Assistant US Attorney Oleksandra Johnson of the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case.
The department’s extensive and broad-based efforts to combat elder fraud aim to stop the widespread losses that elders suffer from scam schemes. However, the best method of prevention is to share information about the different types of elder scam schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors and other elders who can use this information to protect themselves.
If you or someone you know is 60 years of age or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, you can get help from the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Crime Victims Office, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide callers with one-on-one support by assessing the victim’s needs and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate hotlines, provide information to callers to assist in reporting, connect callers directly to appropriate hotlines, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those committing fraud, and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood that losses will be recovered. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For information about the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Initiative, visit www.justice.gov/elderjustice.