Two more members of a nationwide “grandparent scam” network have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act known as RICO.
Lyda Harris of Laveen, Arizona, pleaded guilty in federal court July 7; Tracy Glinton of Orlando, Florida, pleaded guilty on June 9, 2022. They are the fifth and sixth of eight defendants to plead guilty; two remain fugitives.
According to court documents, the defendants were members and associates of a criminal enterprise that engaged in extortion and fraud to swindle more than $2 million from 70-plus elderly victims across the nation. At least 10 elderly victims who resided in San Diego County lost over $300,000 to the fraud. From approximately November 1, 2019, until October 14, 2020, the members of the criminal enterprise targeted elderly Americans, contacting them by phone and feeding them phony stories that their grandchildren were in legal trouble and needed money to pay for bail, pay medical expenses for car accident victims, or prevent additional charges from being filed. Members and associates obtained money from victims through in-person cash pick-ups, by mail or commercial carriers, or via wire transfers. Conspirators laundered the proceeds by transferring the funds or converting from fiat currency to cryptocurrency.
Defendant Lyda Harris was arrested in the Republic of Albania in August 2021 and extradited to the United States. According to Harris’s plea agreement, she received and funneled victim proceeds for a coconspirator to convert from fiat currency to cryptocurrency. As part of the guilty plea, Harris agreed to forfeit $6,243 in proceeds she personally received from the offense. Harris will also be subject to an order of restitution to the victims of the offense in the amount of at least $1,208,291.93.
According to defendant Tracy Glinton’s plea agreement, Glinton’s primary role was helping codefendant Tracy Knowles receive proceeds from coconspirators who obtained victim money. Glinton knew that the money she received for Knowles constituted proceeds of grandparent scams. In their phone messages, Glinton and Knowles discussed the “grandma scam.” As part of her guilty plea, Glinton agreed to forfeit $9,950 in proceeds she personally received from the offense and pay at least $471,600 to the victims in restitution.
“The defendants participated in a sophisticated conspiracy that exploited our nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The elderly victims were financially and emotionally shattered by these heartless crimes. Fortunately, the coordinated efforts of our prosecution team and law enforcement partners held the defendants accountable and obtained justice for their victims.” Grossman commended the Assistant U.S. Attorney and law enforcement agents who diligently pursued this matter.
“Scammers continue to target our elderly population at an ever-increasing rate across the country. These defendants intentionally preyed upon and systematically stole from their victims without a second thought,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy. “Today’s guilty pleas send a clear message that the FBI is committed to identifying, investigating, and bringing to justice those who are committing financial crimes. The FBI will continue to work with our partners on the San Diego’s Elder Justice Task Force to protect our elders.”
This case was investigated by the San Diego Elder Justice Task Force, which is a collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the District Attorney’s Office and all San Diego County law enforcement agencies. The Elder Justice Task Force, established in February 2021, is believed to be the first comprehensive law enforcement effort for this purpose anywhere in the country. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch.