A federal jury convicted two men Wednesday for their roles in a $4.5 million telemarketing scheme that defrauded victims in the United States from a call center in Costa Rica.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Manuel Chavez, 30, of Miami, Florida, and Mark Oman, 36, of Long Beach, Washington, participated in a fraudulent telemarketing scheme in which co-conspirators, who falsely posed as U.S. government officials, contacted victims in the United States to tell them that that they had won a substantial “sweepstakes” prize. After convincing victims, many of whom were elderly, that they stood to receive a significant financial reward, the co-conspirators told victims that they needed to make a series of up-front payments before collecting their supposed prize, purportedly for items such as taxes, customs duties and other fees. Co-conspirators used a variety of means to conceal their true identities, including Voice over Internet Protocol technology, which made it appear as though they were calling from Washington, D.C., and other locations in the United States. Chavez helped to transmit victims’ payments from the United States to Costa Rica, while Oman worked at the fraudulent call center soliciting victims and also collected victim funds in Costa Rica, according to the evidence presented at trial. Chavez, Oman, and their co-conspirators stole approximately $4.5 million from victims, the evidence showed.
Chavez and Oman were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and six counts of international money laundering. Sentencing has not yet been set by U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. of the Western District of North Carolina, who presided over the trial. Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison per count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney William T. Stetzer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina; Inspector in Charge Tommy Coke of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) Atlanta Division; Special Agent in Charge Bryant Jackson of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Cincinnati Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Robert Wells of the FBI’s Charlotte Field Office made the announcement.
The USPIS, IRS-CI, and FBI investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Della Sentilles and Joshua DeBold of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
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.
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