A California man pleaded guilty today to conspiring with Peruvian-based call-centers that defrauded Spanish-speaking United States residents by falsely threatening them with arrest, deportation and other legal consequences.
According to court documents, Luis Rendon, 60, of Harbor City, California, operated a distribution center that helped the call center operators execute their fraud scheme from Peru. With Rendon’s guilty plea, eleven defendants have now pleaded guilty in connection with a $15 million trans-national fraud scheme aimed at defrauding Spanish-speaking residents of the United States by fraudulently threatening them with legal consequences if they did not pay for English-language learning products they never requested or pay bogus settlement fees. More than 30,000 Spanish-speaking residents of the United States were defrauded.
In total, the eleven defendants include seven Peruvian call center owner-operators and four distribution center operators who processed payments and facilitated the fraud in the United States. Many of the defendants collaborated and shared strategies on how to defraud Spanish-speaking residents of the United States.
Seven of the defendants were extradited from Peru and pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and received significant prison sentences. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. sentenced Henrry Milla, Carlos Espinoza, Jerson Renteria, Fernan Huerta, Omar Cuzcano, Evelyng Milla and Josmell Espinoza to sentences ranging from 88 months to 110 months in prison.
“These cases demonstrate that the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will vigorously pursue and prosecute transnational criminals who defraud vulnerable U.S. consumers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Individuals who defraud our immigrant communities will be brought to justice and held accountable in U.S. courts.”
“Our cases with the Consumer Protection Branch demonstrate that the long arm of justice has no limits when it comes to reaching fraudsters who prey on our nation’s most vulnerable populations,” said U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida. “We will continue to bring American justice to transnational criminals who use fear tactics and intimidation to steal money from immigrants, seniors and others who live in this country.”
“For many years, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and their law enforcement partners have investigated and prosecuted international criminal rings targeting U.S. consumers to steal their hard-earned money,” said Acting Inspector in Charge Juan A. Vargas of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Miami Division. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will continue to aggressively pursue these criminals to ensure that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to court documents, Rendon owned and operated International Latin Market (ILM), a California-based distribution center that facilitated the large-scale telemarketing fraud and extortion scheme from 2011 until late 2017. Rendon aided and abetted the scheme by providing lists of prospective victims to the call centers in Peru, processing card payments from victims, and sending low-quality computer tablets pre-loaded with English language courses to victims in the Miami area and across the United States.
Rendon, like the other defendants who pleaded guilty before him in this investigation, admitted that the call centers and their employees falsely claimed to be lawyers, court officials, federal agents, and representatives of a so-called “minor crimes court,” which does not exist. The callers falsely threatened victims with court proceedings, negative marks on their credit reports, imprisonment, and immigration consequences if they did not immediately pay for the purportedly delivered products and settlement fees.
Angel Adrianzen, another co-conspirator who operated a U.S. based distribution center that facilitated an additional group of fraudulent Peruvian call centers, pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2020. Adrianzen helped his co-conspirators set up and staff call centers that defrauded Spanish-speaking residents in the United States. Judge Scola sentenced Adrianzen to 121 months in prison.
Rendon will be sentenced on Feb. 16, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz in Miami. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Consumer Protection Branch investigated the case.
Senior Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Trial Attorney Max Goldman of the Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the cases and Assistant United States Attorney Annika Miranda is handling asset forfeiture. The Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and the Peruvian National Police provided critical assistance.
The Department of Justice continues to investigate and bring charges in other similar matters involving threats against Spanish-speaking residents of the United States. 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).
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its fraud enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.