BUFFALO, NY - The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) and U.S. Attorney's offices in Buffalo unveiled details of a major international fraud scheme that targeted victims across the United States Tuesday afternoon.
Thirty two people have been indicted on 62 counts by a federal grand jury in Buffalo for allegedly participating in a large-scale, international loan fraud scheme.
The investigation has so far identified more than 2,000 victims who lost more than $2.7 million to the loan scheme.
• Brynell Jones, 31, of Detroit;
• Shardonya Fletcher, 26, of Detroit;
• Gerri Britton, 40, of Wyandotte, Mich.;
• Candice McGraw, 22, of Grand Rapids, Mich.;
• Sherece Payne, 22, of Brooklyn, N.Y.;
• Deborah Boshears, 40, of Wyandotte, Mich.;
• Ashely Cain, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y.;
• Luna Noncent, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y.;
• Kevin Chenevare, 33, of Wyandotte, Mich; and
• Dianne Jaichon, 36, of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
All were arrested Tuesday, with the exception of Jaichon, who was arrested July 1, 2012. Chenevare was arrested Tuesday as well for wire fraud conspiracy pursuant to a criminal complaint.
Government officials say more arrests are expected in Canada.
All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, and conspiracy to launder money, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine up to twice the amount of property involved in the crime.
Boshears is also charged with wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Others named in the indictment are still at large and charged with multiple substantive counts of wire fraud and money laundering.
One defendant has already pleaded guilty to wire fraud in U.S. district court in Buffalo and is scheduled to be sentenced in August.
"As a result of this investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, a major international criminal network has been disrupted," said I.C.E. Director Morton. "Conniving and stealing is over for this den of thieves. Instead of manipulating those struggling to make ends meet, the 33 members of this ring now have to answer criminal charges in federal court. Had they not been caught, these con artists would still be profiting from their charade. HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue criminals who exploit the financial system and try to take advantage of vulnerable citizens."
"This case demonstrates the real-world threats that continue to be present in the on-line domain," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "Here, potential loan applicants were misled by Internet advertising and the clever creation of fictitious companies with names similar to those with proven track records. Customers of all types should be reminded that when dealing with anyone on-line - whether to purchase goods, or to provide personal or financial information about yourself - it is especially important to do your homework. Do not rely solely on online advertisements or emails, ask questions, and do not be pressured. The public can also always contact the Better Business Bureau, state and federal law enforcement agencies, or the website www.stopfraud.gov for more valuable information."
According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly used numerous web sites and search engines to direct would-be loan applicants to apply for unsecured personal loans online with non-existent financial companies.
Investigators say representatives of these fake companies would contact the loan applicants, advise them they were approved for loans, and then direct them to make an initial security deposit payment through Western Union to money couriers in order to receive the loan proceeds.
The victims never received the loans or refunds of their money.
Officials say that the suspects would close out web sites and established new ones once a victim realized they were scammed.