LOS ANGELES (CNS) – An undocumented immigrant who participated in a telephone-based scheme that conned tens of thousands of dollars from elderly Inland Empire residents and others faces federal prison time at sentencing today in Los Angeles.
William M. Barrios, 36, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge, admitting he acted as a collector for overseas conspirators in the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Also charged are Barrios’ cousin, Elmer M. Barrios, 35, and 30-year- old Anuj M. Patel, both of Lake Elsinore. Patel is scheduled to plead guilty to the conspiracy charge on Tuesday.
The three men were charged in October with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. William Barrios, of Mexico, was additionally charged with being an illegal alien in the United States after deportation.
The unnamed conspirators, who may be based in India, posed as federal law enforcement agents and telephoned elderly victims, informing them they were at risk of being arrested and having their assets seized because they had been implicated in unspecified acts of fraud, as a result of identity theft, and that there were outstanding warrants with their names on them, according to prosecutors.
The government alleges the overseas co-conspirators warned victims that one certain way to clear the warrants was to withdraw cash and send it by mail.
“The victims were ordered to send the parcels through shipping companies that allowed parcel recipients to pick up a parcel so long as the recipients had identification matching the names listed on the parcels as the addressees,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Pickup locations where the three defendants allegedly went were in Riverside, Los Angeles and San Diego counties.
One victim, identified only as an 82-year-old citizen, was persuaded to send $10,000 to an address in Hemet. Other victims sent varying amounts of money, and the ill-gotten gains totaled $541,420, according to the government.
About 50 people were victimized.
Prosecutors are asking that William Barrios be sentenced to 12 months behind bars. He is expected to be deported immediately following prison, court papers show.
“The vast majority of victims in this case have entered what should be their golden years, having worked hard to save for their retirement,”
federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “But instead, they were duped out of their hard-earned savings by the conspiracy that (William Barrios) participated in. The seriousness of this scheme and its devastating impact cannot be overstated, and the United States will ask the court to impose lengthy sentences on the most culpable defendants.”
Barrios, however, “played a small part in the scheme as reflected by being named in only three overt acts in the indictment. Based on the evidence available, it does not appear defendant made substantial profits from his role in the scheme. As such, a 12-month sentence is sufficient but not greater than necessary to balance the very serious nature of the crime against defendant’s limited role.”
Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.