Paramount Man Sentenced to 46 Months for Participation in “Heartbreakingly Evil” Grandparent Scam RICO Conspiracy

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

Assistant U. S. Attorney Oleksandra “Sasha” Johnson (619) 546-9769      

SAN DIEGO – Jack Owuor, a resident of Paramount, California, was sentenced in federal court to 46 months in prison for participating in a large-scale “grandparent scam” racketeering conspiracy.  As part of his guilty plea, Owuor admitted that he, along with seven others, participated in a criminal enterprise that engaged in extortion and fraud to swindle more than $2 million from 70-plus elderly victims across the nation.  At least 10 elderly victims who resided in San Diego County lost over $300,000 to the fraud. 

From approximately November 1, 2019, until October 14, 2020, the members of the criminal enterprise targeted elderly Americans, contacting them by phone and feeding them phony stories that their grandchildren were in legal trouble and needed money to pay for bail, pay medical expenses for car accident victims, or prevent additional charges from being filed.  Members of the conspiracy and their associates obtained money from victims through in-person cash pick-ups, by mail or commercial carriers, or via wire transfers.  Conspirators laundered the proceeds by transferring the funds or converting from fiat currency to cryptocurrency.

According to court documents, Jack Owuor personally conducted cash pick-ups from victims under the direction of co-defendant Timothy Ingram.  In their phone messages, Ingram and Owuor exchanged information about the scheme, including victim names, addresses, relatives’ names, and false names and occupations for Owuor to provide to the victims.  They also discussed using female mules for cash pick ups to make “it more smooth.”  On one occasion, Owuor picked up $33,000 in cash from three different victims in a single day.  In addition, Owuor recruited, supervised, and directed other mules to conduct pick-ups and to provide bank accounts to receive and launder the victim proceeds.  Owuor was ordered to forfeit $4,300 in proceeds he personally received from the offense, and to pay $434,600 to the victims in restitution.  During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo indicated that this custodial sentence will send a strong message to anyone who conspires to participate in such a “heartbreakingly evil” scheme.

This case was investigated by the San Diego Elder Justice Task Force, which is a collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the District Attorney’s Office and all San Diego County law enforcement agencies. The Elder Justice Task Force was established in February 2021 and is believed to be the first comprehensive law enforcement effort for this purpose anywhere in the country. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch.

“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. “It is despicable that these fraudsters preyed on a grandparents’ 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.”  Grossman commended the prosecution and law enforcement agencies who diligently pursued this case.

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“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.”

As of today, five of the eight defendants charged in the case have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Two defendants are fugitives and remain at large.

DEFENDANTS                                             Case Number 22cr2216-CAB                                       

Tracy Adrine Knowles                                   30        Orlando, Florida

Fugitive                                                        

Adonis Alexis Butler Wong                           30        North Bay Village, Florida

Fugitive

Timothy Ingram, aka Bleezy                          29        North Hollywood, California

In custody.  Sentencing set for August 31, 2022.                                                                                               

Anajah Gifford                                                23        North Hollywood, California

In custody.  Sentencing set for August 26, 2022.

Lyda Harris                                                     74        Laveen, Arizona

Released on bond. Sentencing set for September 30, 2022.

Joaquin Lopez                                                 46        Hollywood, Florida

Released on bond. Sentencing set for August 31, 2022

Jack Owuor                                                     25        Paramount, California                                           

Sentenced today to 46 months in prison. 

Tracy Glinton                                                 35        Orlando, Florida

Released on bond. Sentencing set for November 4, 2022.

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1962(d) – Conspiracy to Conduct or Participate in an Enterprise

Through a Pattern of Racketeering Activity

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and a fine of not more than the greater of twice the amount of gain or loss associated with the offense or $250,000

AGENCY

Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch

San Diego Elder Justice Task Force, which includes:

San Diego FBI

San Diego County District Attorney’s Office

San Diego Police Department

San Diego Sheriff’s Department

Carlsbad Police Department

Oceanside Police Department

Escondido Police Department

Chula Vista Police Department

El Cajon Police Department

La Mesa Police Department

National City Police Department

Coronado Police Department