Three Peruvian nationals have been sentenced to serve several years in prison for operating a series of call centers in Peru that defrauded Spanish-speaking U.S. residents by falsely threatening them with arrest, deportation and other legal consequences.
Fernan Huerta Haro, 34, Jerson Isai Renteria, 38, and Evelyng Milla Campuzano, 36, all from Lima, Peru, were sentenced to 90 months, 100 months, and 90 months in prison, respectively. Each pleaded guilty for their roles in conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud through a series of Peruvian call centers that used false statements and threats to obtain money from Spanish-speaking individuals across the United States. The defendants and their employees falsely told victims that they were required to accept and pay for English-language courses and other educational products and that failure to do so placed them in legal jeopardy. The defendants and their co-conspirators falsely threatened to have their victims arrested and deported in order to collect millions of dollars from victims in South Florida and across the United States. Many of the defendants’ victims were elderly.
“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will pursue and prosecute transnational criminals who defraud vulnerable U.S. consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The defendants in this case defrauded immigrants by falsely promising free products to improve their English. In reality, the defendants were luring their victims into a trap of intimidation and fear, leaving them far worse off – with substantial financial losses and, often, emotional scars from these crimes. Today’s sentences demonstrate that defendants who prey upon U.S. consumers from abroad will not do so with impunity.”
“This case demonstrates that the long arm of justice has no limits when it comes to reaching fraudsters who prey on our nation’s most vulnerable populations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida. “We will continue to bring American justice to transnational criminals who use fear tactics and intimidation to steal money from immigrants, seniors and others who live in this country.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service constantly strives to protect our communities from predatory criminals seeking to abuse and exploit the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Inspector in Charge Joseph W. Cronin of the USPIS Miami Division. “This particular case is an example of how Postal Inspectors will vigorously pursue these types of crime and ensure that the perpetrators will be brought to justice to pay for the crimes they have committed.”
In pleading guilty, each of these defendants admitted that they and their employees falsely claimed to be lawyers, court officials, federal agents and representatives of a so-called “minor crimes court,” which does not exist. The callers falsely threatened victims with court proceedings, negative marks on their credit reports, imprisonment and immigration consequences if they did not immediately pay for the purportedly delivered products and settlement fees.
Huerta was the co-owner of the Camino al Progreso and Neshuer Corporation call centers in Lima, Peru. From April 2011 until his arrest in July 2019, he and his co-conspirators called victims as well as victims’ family members and friends and fraudulently threatened them with legal consequences if they did not make payments for the purportedly delivered products and settlement fees for English language classes.
Renteria was the co-owner of the Accion Latino and Bienester Hispano call centers in Lima, Peru. In pleading guilty, he admitted that from June 2013 until July 2019, he and his employees falsely impersonated U.S. government officials and falsely threatened victims with court proceedings, imprisonment and immigration consequences.
Milla was Renteria’s co-owner at the Accion Latino call center. From 2013 until her arrest in 2019, she also threatened and intimidated Spanish-speakers in the United States by overseeing call centers that impersonated U.S. law enforcement and demanded payments from vulnerable victims across the United States.
Huerta, Renteria and Milla were arrested in July 2019 by Peruvian authorities based on a U.S. extradition request, and each has remained incarcerated since that time. The defendants were extradited to the Southern District of Florida in October 2020. A co-defendant Omar Cuzcano was previously sentenced to serve 90 months in prison. Another co-defendant Henrry Milla Campuzano will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. on Sept. 21.
Two additional defendants in the case – Carlos Alberto Espinoza Huerta and Josmell Arturo Espinoza Huerta – evaded arrest at the time of their five co-defendants’ arrests in Peru. They were subsequently located and extradited to the United States on June 25, and are being detained at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. Their trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 14, 2022, before Judge Scola.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch investigated the case, along with the department’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. Senior Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Trial Attorney Max Goldman of the Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the case. The Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, and the Peruvian National Police provided critical assistance.
The Consumer Protection Branch coordinates the department’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, working with U.S. Attorney’s Offices and law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute scams run by transnational criminal organizations, including mass mailing, telemarketing, and tech support scams. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit its website at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.