Aug. 25 (UPI) -- A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted eight members of a criminal organization that defrauded elderly Americans of millions of dollars by impersonating a relative who was in need of money due to legal troubles.
The Justice Department said the members and associates of the criminal organization swindled more than $2 million from more than 70 elderly victims nationwide in a racketeering conspiracy they called a "Grandparent Scam."
According to the indictment, the defendants would contact their potential victims via telephone and impersonate either a grandchild or another close relative or friend, claiming their were in trouble and needed money for bail, medical expenses, medical costs or to prevent charges from being filed.
Their victims would pay between thousands and tens of thousands to help their relative who was supposedly in trouble, it said.
"The scheme has left many elderly victims financially and emotionally devastated," Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman of the Souther District of California said in a statement. "It is unconscionable to target the elderly and exploit their love for their grandchildren."
Timothy Ingram, 29, and Anajah Gifford, 23, of North Hollywood Calif.; Joaquin Lopez, 45, of Hollywood, Fla.; Jack Owuor, 24, of Paramount, Calif.; Tracy Glinton 34, of Orlando, Fla.; and Lyda Harris, 73, of Laveen Ariz.; have been arrested.
Two additional defendants -- Tracy Adrine Knowles and Adonis Alexis Butler Wong, both 29 and residents of Florida during the scheme, -- were also charged.
"These defendants were part of a large network of individuals that systematically targeted elderly Americans by preying on their concern for loved ones," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun Rao of the Justice Department's Civil Division. "The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting individuals who take part in such schemes that target vulnerable people."
The indictment states the racketeering conspiracy began on Nov. 1, 2019, and continued until Oct. 14 of last year.
It identifies one of the victims as N.G., an 82-year-old woman in Richardson, Texas.
The prosecutors said that on Nov. 1, 2019, she was contacted by a man who was impersonating her grandson who said he was in a California jail and needed N.G. to send money to get him out.
That same day a second person claiming to be her grandson's attorney called N.G. and provided her with wire instructions.
She wired $20,000 to the supposed attorney through her bank, the indictment states. On Nov. 5, N.G. made a second wire transfer of $30,000.
The indictment said mules, also known as curriers, were used to withdrawal and deposit the illicitly obtained funds.
Along with those charged, the indictment lists 12 unnamed mules, eight from California and four from Florida, were used in the scheme.