Picture credit - The Recorder

Five defendants were sentenced this week in a U.S. federal court in Georgia for scamming the elderly and some of them face deportation out of the United States.

Silvia Sanchez Valverde, Rodolfo Orozco Aguilar, Daniel Sibaja, Priscilla Sibaja, and Elpelice Figueroa Rosales have been sentenced for their roles in a sweepstakes scam that targeted elderly individuals located throughout the United States.

“These defendants targeted and bilked dozens of vulnerable elderly victims out of $3.5 million,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Lottery and sweepstakes scams are one of the most common consumer frauds, with the majority of financial losses being suffered by the elderly. Citizens always should be wary of those requesting upfront money for supposed lottery or sweepstakes winnings.”

“This case makes clear that transnational scammers who believe they can avoid accountability for their crimes by transferring ill-gotten proceeds outside the country are mistaken,” said Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta Nick S. Annan. “An international border is no defense for those who defraud senior citizens, and HSI is committed to using its cross-border authority to investigate and hold such persons accountable. We’re appreciative of our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to successfully prosecute this case and will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to identify and stop financial crimes targeting vulnerable populations.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: From February 2016 through September 2017, dozens of victims – most of whom were elderly – were contacted by telephone and told that they had won a sweepstakes or lottery. However, the victims were told that they could receive their sweepstakes winnings only after paying various expenses, such as taxes and fees. The victims were then directed to pay the expenses to various companies controlled by the defendants, such as J.G. Services, RF Financial Services, and Master Builders. The victims then mailed payments via personal and cashier’s checks to addresses that were linked to mailboxes rented by the defendants. The defendants deposited the checks, totaling over $3.5 million, into their bank accounts and then transferred the majority of the funds to Costa Rican bank accounts.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May sentenced the defendants as follows:

  •           Silvia Sanchez Valverde, 47, of Buford, Georgia was sentenced to five years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Sanchez Valverde was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud on August 27, 2018, after she pleaded guilty.
  •           Rodolfo Orozco Aguilar, 44, of Costa Rica was sentenced to four years in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release.  Orozco Aguilar was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud on August 23, 2018, after he pleaded guilty.  He faces potential removal from the United States, as a result of his conviction.
  •           Daniel Sibaja, 28, of Buford, Georgia was sentenced to four years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Daniel Sibaja was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud on August 27, 2018, after he pleaded guilty.
  •           Priscilla Sibaja, 21, of Buford, Georgia was sentenced to three years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Priscilla Sibaja was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering on August 30, 2018, after she pleaded guilty.  She faces potential removal from the United States, as a result of her conviction.
  •           Elpelice Figueroa Rosales, 62, of Buford, Georgia was sentenced to two years in prison, to be followed by three year of supervised release.  Figueroa Rosales was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud on August 24, 2018, after she pleaded guilty.  She faces potential removal from the United States, as a result of her conviction.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly K. Connors and Cassandra J. Schansman prosecuted the case.

The Department of Justice Elder Justice Initiative promotes investigations and prosecutions of financial scams targeting the elderly. For more information regarding the Elder Justice Initiative, please visit www.justice.gov/elderjustice.

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