U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California
(916) 554-2700
September 10, 2014

Guilty Plea in Telemarketing Scam That Targeted Elderly in Woodland, Stockton, Bakersfield, and Dinuba

SACRAMENTO, CA—Wladimir Rocha, 35, a Cape Verde national and resident of Winchester, Virginia, pleaded guilty today to one count of mail fraud, in connection with a telemarketing scam that tricked people into sending him money in order to receive cash prizes, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to court documents, the scam targeted elderly victims who believed the money they sent to the defendants would be used to pre-pay taxes and fees on winnings from a sweepstakes or lottery. As part of the scam, Rocha opened different post office boxes in Virginia to receive victim money. The scam targeted victims throughout California, including residents of Woodland, Stockton, Bakersfield, and Dinuba. Co-defendant Joseph Nkunzi pleaded guilty on September 2, 2014, and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 19, 2014.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Michele Beckwith is prosecuting the case.

Rocha is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on December 3, 2014. Rocha faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

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