Major "Grandparent Scam" Ring Busted, Sixteen Charged in Conspiracy


Fraud targeted elderly Americans, netting millions of dollars from victims across multiple states, including New Jersey.

NEWARK, NJSixteen individuals have been charged in a widespread scheme to defraud elderly Americans out of millions of dollars through a so-called "grandparent scam," according to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger. The charges involve a complex operation based out of the Dominican Republic, with significant activities impacting residents in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

“As alleged, these 16 defendants preyed upon grandparents’ familial love and devotion, cheating them out of millions of dollars. In this ‘grandparents’ scam,’ the defendants allegedly impersonated grandchildren in distress, claiming, for example, they had been arrested after a car accident involving a pregnant woman who later miscarried, and they needed immediate cash for bail or a lawyer. The panic-stricken grandparents quickly paid—sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. My office is committed to protecting the rights of all victims, and we will relentlessly prosecute those who allegedly target vulnerable seniors to steal their hard-earned savings,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.

Eleven men, primarily from the Dominican Republic, face a 19-count indictment with charges including mail and wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering. Those in custody include notable figures such as Juan Rafael Parra Arias, Nefy Vladimir Parra Arias, and Nelson Rafael Gonzalez Acevedo, who allegedly operated sophisticated call centers that initiated the scams.

The scam involved callers, known as “openers,” who contacted elderly individuals in the U.S., falsely impersonating their relatives in distressing situations such as accidents or arrests. These callers, using technology to mask their location, then handed off the call to “closers” who impersonated legal or law enforcement officials to solicit funds purportedly for bail or legal fees.

Closers, including defendants such as Rafael Ambiorix Rodriguez Guzman and Miguel Angel Fortuna Solano, instructed the victims to hand over cash to couriers or send it via mail. These couriers, part of a network managed by “dispatchers” like Louis Junior Serrano Rodriguez and Miguel Angel Vasquez, would collect the cash under false pretenses, providing fake receipts.

Additionally, five other defendants have been charged by complaint in connection with the same scheme, extending the network's reach into the U.S. with couriers operating in multiple states.

“We allege these scammers created an elaborate scheme revolving around a grandchild reaching out to say they were in trouble, had been arrested, and needed help,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “Then to reinforce an immediate need for cash, these fraudsters allegedly posed as attorneys, law enforcement officers, and court employees explaining how grandparents can get them money. Even the most jaded and savvy of us out there may pause a moment, thinking that this could actually be real. That’s the insidious nature of this particular fraud, criminals are preying on our instinct to protect our families. We ask anyone who believes they could also be a victim to report it at”

Each charge in the extensive list of indictments carries a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, with substantial fines also possible for mail and wire fraud, and money laundering offenses.

“The crimes outlined here are truly depraved in their nature: targeting our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and others in an elaborate venture to bilk them of their hard-earned savings," said New York Police Department Commissioner Edward A. Caban.

The arrest and charges were the result of collaborative efforts by multiple agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, and the New York Police Department. Special acknowledgment was given to the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs for their assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Silane, Jason Feldman, Joshua Ferrentino, and Emily Powers are handling the prosecution, reflecting a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark and the Department of Justice's Consumer Protection Branch in Washington, D.C.

While the charges underscore a serious crackdown on financial crimes targeting vulnerable populations, the accused individuals are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified