PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A federal indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Providence on Friday charges three individuals with allegedly participating in a so called “Grandparent Scam” to defraud at least eleven elderly Rhode Island residents in nine communities of thousands of dollars, announced Acting United States Attorney Richard B. Myrus.
The indictment alleges that members of the conspiracy contacted Rhode Island senior citizens by telephone, posing as their grandchild, a lawyer, or other individual, and falsely claimed the grandchild had been in a car accident, had been arrested, and that cash was needed for bail and legal fees.
The indictment charges Bryan Valdez-Espinosa, 21, of Union City, NJ., with conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and Diego A. Alarcon, 22, of Union City, NJ, and Jason Hatcher, 39, of New York, NY, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Valdez-Espinosa, arrested by Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents last week and arraigned on Friday, was released on unsecured bond. Federal arrest warrants have been issued for Alarcon and Hatcher. Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Alarcon or Hatcher are asked to contact the United States Marshals Service in Providence at (401) 528-5000.
According to the indictment and information presented to the court, an investigation by HSI determined that between June 9 and June 11, 2021, the three men allegedly participated in a scheme to contact elderly Rhode Islanders and pose as the person’s grandchild, claiming that they had been arrested and needed money for bail. The victims were instructed to gather the necessary funds in cash and provide the cash to a courier who would arrive at their home later that day. Several victims were contacted multiple times, in some instances by an individual claiming to be an attorney, seeking additional funds because, they claimed, the amount of cash bail had increased due to additional and more serious criminal charges being brought against their grandchild. The victims were instructed to provide the additional cash to a courier; to mail the cash to an address in Florida; or to electronically transfer the funds to an account in the Dominican Republic. Some victims were told that a “gag order” was in effect and that they were prohibited from telling anyone about the case or the cash payments.
Eleven of the twelve victims allegedly contacted by members of the conspiracy provided cash payments ranging from $6,000 to $99,225. Relatives of one person targeted by the scammers intervened and chased away a person who attempted to retrieve $9,500 in cash.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William F. Ferland.
Acting United States Attorney Myrus thanks the Barrington, Cranston, Coventry, Cumberland, East Providence, Hopkinton, Johnston, Smithfield, and Warwick Police Departments for their assistance in investigating and assisting residents in their community allegedly victimized by this scam.
A federal indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.