Individual Indicted for Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, and Aggravated Identity Theft
SAN JUAN, PR—On April 24, a federal grand jury returned a 18-count indictment charging Miguel A. Merced-Torres for the use of interstate wired communications to commit fraud and money laundering, announced United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Secret Service.
Merced-Torres was the incorporator and resident agent of MM Technology Wireless Group, a corporation registered with the Puerto Rico State Department since June 9, 2009. From on or about July, 2006, to on or about February, 2013, the defendant devised a scheme and artifice to defraud other persons, and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.
Through the scheme and artifice to defraud, Merced-Torres obtained money from investors by falsely representing himself as a representative of the Federal Communications Commission, hereinafter “FCC.” Merced-Torres falsely promised said investors that they were going to receive financial benefits and profits from their investments in cellular tower administration contracts. The defendant and his coconspirators would convince victims to invest money by falsely representing that the FCC was actively seeking individuals to invest money in exchange for the FCC’s issuance of cellular tower administration contracts, which would render considerable profit for the investors.
When victims began to inquire about delays in signing the cellular tower administration contracts, and after some victims requested the return of their money, Merced-Torres would have e-mails sent from an e-mail account he had created, “email@example.com,” falsely representing that the e-mails were sent by FCC officials. The e-mails provided false reasons for the delays in signing the cellular tower administration contracts, such as: 1) problems with the security clearance of investors and subsequent investigations by the FBI; 2) inadvertent notification of incorrect dates for the signing of contracts; 3) alleged electoral bans for signing contracts within the first 10 days of each month; 4) serious car accident involving the alleged FCC interim program administrator, who remained in a coma and connected to life-support machinery; among others.
As part of the manner and means of the conspiracy, the defendant would make partial payment of money to victims, under the representation that the money was a loan to the victim to ease his or her financial hardship caused by the delays, and under the understanding that said money would have to be paid back to the FCC prior to signing the contracts.
Merced-Torres requested and received bank wire transfers totaling the sum of $2,611,461.48 from victim “J.M.,” for the purpose of investing in the fraudulent scheme. He also received $2,369,678.00 in deposits from five other victims. In addition, on or about July 2008, the defendant informed victim “R.C.” of a vehicle he wanted to lease, a 2007 BMW 750i. Merced-Torres asked “R.C.” to purchase the vehicle for him, and indicated that the transaction and car payments would be credited towards the investment amounts owed by “R.C.” Between, September 2008 and February 2013, “R.C.” made car payments totaling $39,823.80 in benefit of the defendant.
The defendant is also charged with four counts of money laundering, in that he did knowingly engage and attempt to engage in monetary transactions by and through a financial institution, affecting interstate or foreign commerce, in criminally derived property of a value between $20,000 and $100,000, such property having been derived from a specified unlawful activity, that is, wire fraud.
Counts 14-18 charge Merced-Torres with aggravated identity theft. The defendant did knowingly transfer, possess, and use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person, that is, names and unique e-mail addresses of other persons during and in relation to wire fraud violations.
Miguel Merced-Torres is facing a money judgment of $9,089,777.37. He is also facing a forfeiture allegation of: a land lot located at Turabo Ward in the municipality of Caguas; a residential apartment located at Islabella Condominium in Caguas; a land lot located at Tomas de Castro Ward in Caguas; an apartment at Villas del Mar Condominium in the municipality of Cabo Rojo; a land lot located at La Serranía Urbanization in Caguas; a lot located in Turabo Gardens Urbanization in Caguas; a land lot located at Tejas Ward in the municipality of Las Piedras; a land lot located in San Lorenzo Valley Urbanization in the municipality of San Lorenzo; and a house located on Calle Rufo Ramirez, Barrio Celada, in the municipality of Gurabo.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting financial crimes and protecting the citizens of Puerto Rico. The joint efforts of the FBI and the Secret Service lead to the arrest of this individual, who no longer will be able to defraud investors,” said United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin R. Martin. The maximum penalties are up to 20 years for the wire fraud charges, up to 20 years for the money laundering charges and two mandatory consecutive years for each aggravated identity theft charge. An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.