DR Scammers Faked Being DEA Agents To Extort $3.5 million From Victims

(NEW YORK) -- Twenty-one alleged con artists have been charged with impersonating federal agents in a telephone scam that cost Americans hundreds of thousands of dollars. The extortion originated in the Dominican Republic and targeted Americans who bought prescription drugs on the Internet, costing victims nearly $900,000. The scammers would reportedly pose as a federal drug enforcement agent, identify themselves using an agent's real name, and then tell unsuspecting victims they were under investigation. The con artists then allegedly demanded that people pay a fine to avoid arrest. Seventeen Dominicans have been arrested and await extradition. Four more are being sought.


Also on YAHOO NEWS - Dominican Republic citizens charged by U.S. in extortion scheme



Approximately 21 citizens of the Dominican Republic took part in an elaborate scheme to extort money from fellow Dominicans by pretending to be agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies. The DEA caught wind of the scam two weeks ago when the agency alerted law enforcement officials in the Caribbean nation to begin rounding up the alleged extortionists. So far, 17 have been captured and four remain at large.

According to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, the group targeted individuals who they believed had illicitly purchased prescription pharmaceuticals through call centers located in the Dominican Republic. As part of the scheme, a member of the conspiracy would call a victim located in the United States and identify himself or herself as a DEA agent or representative of another United States agency. The victim would then be told that he or she was under investigation for illegally purchasing prescription drugs, and that the only way to avoid arrest and jail would be to pay a “fine” or some other fee to the DEA. In total, participants in the racket demanded at least $3.5 million, and received at least $880,000, in extortionate payments from victims in the United States.

“These alleged criminals not only bilked thousands of dollars from unsuspecting Americans but they also called into question the integrity and honor of the DEA and all law enforcement,” Leonhart said.

According to the Indictment, which was unsealed today in Manhattan federal court, the scheme began sometime in 2008 and last until 2013. The extortionists would buy lists of individuals who previously purchased prescription drugs over the Internet on illicit websites or through illicit call centers located in the Dominican Republic. The Customer Lists generally contained the names, addresses, credit card numbers and other information for individuals located in the United States.

The extortionists would contact a customer on the list claiming to be a federal agent, mainly from the DEA. Often, they provided the name of an actual DEA supervisor from a DEA office located in the United States. During a call with a victim, an extortionist falsely informed the victim that authorities in the Dominican Republic or elsewhere were investigating or criminally charging the victim as a result of his or her illegal purchase of prescription drugs that were sent to the victim from the Dominican Republic. In a single call or series of calls and emails, the extortionist detailed the purported criminal charges and potential penalties facing the victim, including imprisonment, and the likelihood that the victim would be arrested and extradited to a foreign country for prosecution.

During a call with the victim, an extortionist also generally informed the victim that he or she could dispose of, or avoid, the criminal charges by making a cash payment. In order to make that happen, the victim would have transfer between several hundred and several thousand dollars either through a money remitting service to a particular individual in the Dominican Republic, or via wire transfer to a particular bank account located in the Dominican Republic.

Following receipt of a payment from a victim, an extortionist typically contacted the victim again. During the follow-up conversations, the extortionist demanded additional payments and threatened to have criminal charges re-filed against the victim. If the victim refused to make, or to continue to make, extortion payments, the criminals threatened the victim with his or her imminent arrest, with searches of the victim’s home in the United States by federal law enforcement officers, or with public disclosure of the victim’s prior purchases of Prescription Drugs.

The extorionists typically made extortion calls from illicit call centers located in the Dominican Republic. In these Call Centers, the extortionists gathered together and used multiple computers equipped with Voice Over Internet Protocol technology to make extortion calls to victims listed on a Customer List. The technology allowed the extortionists to contact their victims by using VOIP lines that made it appear as though they were calling from telephone numbers with area codes from within the United States.

Once a particular victim made an extortion payment to an extortionist who then shared that victim’s contact information with other extortionists, who then besieged the victim with additional, repeated extortion attempts via telephone. While using these lines to further the scheme, the extortionists often traded tips with one another in the same call center on the best techniques to use to extort victims.

Criminals posing as DEA agents to steal money from unwitting victims who bought pain pills has been a long running problem for the agency. Beginning in June 2010, the DEA established a telephone hotline to allow victims to report extortion attempts and other contacts with extortionist posing as federal law enforcement. During a four year period, the DEA received approximately 6,500 reports from victims of extortion attempts, nearly all of which followed substantially the same pattern described above. In sum, through the hotline, the DEA learned that the Dominican gang tried to obtain more than $3.5 million in extortion payments from victims, and squeezed actual extortion payments totaling more than $880,000.

Each of the extortionists has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, each of which carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The defendants have also each been charged with one count of conspiracy to impersonate a United States law enforcement officer, which carries a maximum potential penalty of 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.


Dominican Watchdog Note - I say hang them, they will do it again!!

Go back | Date: 11 Jun 2014
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