A California man was sentenced today to 46 months in prison for his participation in a large-scale “grandparent scam.”
According to court documents, Jack Owuor, 25, of Paramount, California, was part of a network of individuals who, through extortion and fraud, induced elderly Americans across the United States to pay up to tens of thousands of dollars each to purportedly help their grandchild or other loved one. On March 9, 2022, Owuor pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Members of the network contacted elderly Americans by telephone and impersonated a grandchild, other close relative, or friend of the victim. They falsely convinced the victims that their relatives or friends were in legal trouble and needed money to pay for bail, for medical expenses for car accident victims, or to prevent additional charges from being filed. The defendants and their co-conspirators then received money from victims via various means, including in-person pickup, the mail, and wire transfer, and then laundered the proceeds, including through the use of cryptocurrency. Owuor personally made cash pickups from numerous victims. Owuor also recruited and directed other members of the conspiracy.
“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will continue to pursue and prosecute groups that target elderly and vulnerable Americans through extortion, fraud, and impersonating their loved ones,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We are grateful to our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California and the FBI for their work to advance the department’s efforts against organized elder fraud, and to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.”
“Today’s sentence, including prison time, demonstrates the gravity of the defendant’s egregious behavior to steal from the elders of our community,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California. “It is despicable that these fraudsters preyed on a grandparent’s care and concern for their loved ones to line their own pockets. This important effort to bring these unscrupulous wrongdoers to justice helps protect victims and send the message that crime doesn’t pay.”
“Owuor and the criminal enterprise he was a part of preyed upon our elderly population, defrauding some of our most vulnerable and often most trusting citizens,” said Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates the effectiveness of San Diego’s Elder Justice Task Force and the criminals we can stop when working in tandem with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners who make up this collaborative team. This coordinated response is paramount to addressing elder fraud and the task force will continue to aggressively investigate those who operate these criminal enterprises and seek justice for the elderly victims they intend to exploit.”
The FBI’s San Diego Field Office, North County Resident Agency investigated the case with critical assistance from investigators of the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
Trial Attorneys Lauren M. Elfner and Wei Xiang of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Oleksandra Johnson for the Southern District of California prosecuted the case.
The department’s extensive and broad-based efforts to combat elder fraud seek to halt the widespread losses seniors suffer from fraud schemes. 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 available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This 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 seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. Information about the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Initiative is available at www.justice.gov/elderjustice.