DOJ and U.S. Postal Inspection Service Announce International Bust Relating to South American Call Centers

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has extradited four Peruvian residents to the U.S., where they face charges of operating a large scale extortion scheme from 2012 to 2015. Jesus Gerardo Gutierrez Rojas, 37, Maria de Guadalupe Alexandra Podesta Bengoa, 38, Virgilio Ignacio Polo Davila, 43, and Omar Alfredo Portocarrero Caceres, 39, are facing federal charges in Miami.

Podesta, Polo, and Portocarrero are alleged to have run Peruvian call centers that contacted Spanish-speaking individuals living in the U.S. to threaten them into paying fraudulent settlements or nonexistent debts, according to the DOJ release.

Many of the victims of this scam were elderly. Gutierrez was allegedly the general manager of a company where he worked in partnership with the other defendants to facilitate the extortion. Associates of the defendants collected the fraudulent payments in Miami and sometimes shipped packages to victims in the U.S.

According to the indictment, the arrested individuals allegedly used internet-based telephone calls and claimed to be attorneys or government representatives threatening the victims for failure to pay for a delivery of products.

The callers also falsely claimed the victims would be sued for failure to pay, and some were threatened with negative marks on their credit report, imprisonment, or immigration status changes. Many victims made monetary payments based on these threats.

The defendants face 12 counts of extortion.

U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Antonio J. Gomez noted in the release, “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to aggressively investigate and pursue those who threaten U.S. consumers and extort them of their hard earned money, regardless of what country they operate from. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service appreciates the continued partnership with the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch in pursuing South American call center operators who victimize consumers through the U.S. mail.”

U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida affirmed these statements, explaining, “Individuals who defraud American consumers will be brought to justice, no matter where they are located.”

Peruvian authorities arrested the individuals in late 2017, based on a U.S. indictment. All four remained in Peru until extradition was approved in January 2019. When the defendants were extradited this week, all indictments were unsealed.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch. The Postal Inspection Service investigated the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida, the Diplomatic Security Service, and the Peruvian National Police provided assistance.

Posted in The Takedown

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