Wausau Man Sentenced to 2 1/2 Years for Role in International Fraud Scheme

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Mario Amezcua Cardenas, 28, Wausau, Wisconsin, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to 2 ½ years in federal prison for his role in laundering the proceeds of an international wire-fraud scheme. Amezcua Cardenas pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering on February 17, 2022.  

In November and December 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, together with local law enforcement, investigated a series of thefts by fraud involving individuals who used false pretenses to convince employees of businesses to collect and deliver the businesses’ cash-on-hand to individuals who were supposedly legitimate money couriers. Individuals operating in Mexico called the employees, posing as company attorneys or upper management from the corporate office, and told the employees a false story about why they needed to gather the cash-on-hand and deliver it. The fraud perpetrators kept the store employees on the phone so they could not call store management. At some businesses, fraud perpetrators knew store lingo, the locations of safes, and other employee-specific information, which helped convince the employees the calls were legitimate.

Fraud perpetrators were able to successfully obtain cash from businesses throughout Wisconsin, including Merrill, Everest, West Allis, Stevens Point, Wausau, and Rib Mountain. Businesses large and small were targeted in the scheme and the loss to date is approximately $300,000.  

Amezcua Cardenas was one of the individuals that picked up money from employee victims under the false pretenses that he was a legitimate money courier acting on behalf of the victim businesses. He also conducted and directed others to conduct, wire transactions to redirect fraud proceeds back to perpetrators in Mexico. He and his co-defendant, Moises Amezcua Cardenas, also transported $242,980 in fraud proceeds to another co-defendant, Sinval De Oliveira, in Milwaukee on December 2, 2020.

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In selecting a 2 ½ year sentence, Judge Conley said he considered the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal conduct together with his lower-level role in the conspiracy, lack of prior criminal history, and drug addiction.   

Co-defendant Moises Amezcua Cardenas is scheduled for sentencing on May 24, 2022. Co-defendant Sinval De Oliveira is scheduled for sentencing on June 8, 2022.  Moises Amezcua Cardenas and Mario Amezcua Cardenas are brothers.

The charges against the defendants were the result of investigations conducted by U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Merrill Police Department, Wausau Police Department, Everest Police Department, West Allis Police Department, Stevens Point Police Department, and Marathon County Sheriff’s Department, with special assistance from the Marathon County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith P. Duchemin prosecuted this case.