Callers posed as U.S. government officials told victims, mostly elderly, that he or she had won a prize, but before collecting it, the victim needed to pay taxes and fees. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), that is how a group defrauded more than 400 people out of $4.5 million over a span of three years. This scheme resulted in a jury convicting Manuel Mauro Chavez at trial in July 2021 of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering, and six counts of international money laundering.

On January 11, Chavez was sentenced to 133 months in prison for his role in the international telemarketing scheme orchestrated from a call center in Costa Rica. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Chavez was a U.S.-based participant in the fraudulent scheme in which the telemarketers who were based in Costa Rica deceived victims out of their money. According to federal prosecutors, to appear believable, the callers in Costa Rica used technology to make it seem as though they were calling from a government agency. The callers then allegedly persuaded the victims to send their funds through money orders, wire deposits, Western Union, or MoneyGram. Chavez was responsible for transmitting those funds from the United States for the benefit of the call center and others involved in the scheme in Costa Rica.

In two related matters, Mark Raymond Oman was sentenced on Nov. 17, 2022, to three years and one month in prison, and Paul Andy Stiep was sentenced on Dec. 20, 2022, to seven years in prison. Oman worked at the call center soliciting victims and collected victim funds in Costa Rica, while Stiep, like Chavez, transmitted victims’ payments from the United States for the benefit of the call center in Costa Rica.

“The department’s extensive and broad-based efforts to combat elder fraud seek to halt the widespread losses seniors suffer from fraud schemes,” said the DOJ in its press release. “The best method for prevention, however, is by sharing information about the various types of elder fraud schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors, and other seniors who can use that information to protect themselves.”

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