Alleged Operator of ‘Grandparent Scam’ Indicted
In Court Today Following Arrest at LAX
|FBI Los Angeles October 26, 2012|
LOS ANGELES—A Canadian man who is among six defendants charged with defrauding elderly Americans in a scheme in which victims were convinced their grandchildren were in danger in a foreign country was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles and is due in court today for an initial appearance, announced André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles; and Timothy Delaney, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
Pascal Goyer, 29, whose last known residence was Montreal, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport when his flight landed from Mexico late yesterday afternoon. Following an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2011, Goyer and others were identified as participants in an advance fee scheme, known as the “grandparent scam,” which they allegedly operated from a boiler room in Montreal. On September 25, 2012, a federal grand jury returned an indictment in United States District Court in Los Angeles charging Goyer and five co-defendants with multiple counts of wire fraud, attempted wire fraud, and aiding and abetting.
According to the indictment, Goyer and his co-defendants telephonically contacted elderly victims in Southern California and invented scenarios involving legal or financial crises they claimed had befallen the grandchildren or other relatives of the victims. During the telephone calls, one of the defendants would impersonate the purported relative of the victim and claim to be located in a foreign country and in need of money in order to resolve the purported crisis. While perpetrating the fraud, defendants allegedly fabricated perilous situations that included car accidents or arrest scenarios, where bail money or repair expenses were immediately required. The indictment further alleges that the defendants also impersonated third parties during the telephone scheme whom they introduced as an attorney or official acting in the best interest of the individual they claimed was the distressed relative.
The defendants would then instruct victims where and to whom the funds should be sent via a wire transfer service. The indictment alleges the defendants obtained enough information from the victim to fraudulently authenticate the wire transaction by either assuming a false identity or by advising the victim to send funds to the person identified as the third party introduced to the victim.
In none of the cases alleged in the indictment were the defendants related to the victims or associated with any relatives of the victims. The indictment alleges that none of the funds collected from the victims were used to assist relatives of the victims and that all of the funds collected were used for the collective benefit of the defendants.
Investigators have determined that the victims were identified through mass-produced lead lists that targeted a specific victim demographic.
The 23-count indictment alleges that the defendants successfully convinced victims from across Southern California to use wire transfer services to send money each time they agreed to help what they thought was a relative overseas and in dire need of financial assistance. According to the indictment, victims wired amounts between $2,000 to $3,000, in most cases.
In some cases, victims were contacted after sending money and convinced that additional funding would be necessary to completely resolve the purported problem, according to the indictment.
Information developed during the investigation indicated that Goyer recently traveled to Mexico. On Thursday, Goyer was located and deported by Mexican authorities. Goyer was taken into custody upon his arrival at Los Angeles International Airport.
Goyer will appear before a federal magistrate in United States District Court in Los Angeles today for an initial appearance on the charges. Arrest warrants have been issued for the additional defendants charged in the indictment. The statutory maximum penalty for each of the 23 counts in the indictment is 20 years in federal prison.
The charges and arrest of Goyer are the result an ongoing joint investigation by multiple agencies in Canada and the United States that participate in Project Colt, one of the many binational task forces dedicated to combating cross border and mass marketing fraud. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the United States Secret Service, the Federal Trade Commission, and the FBI provided significant resources to the investigation, as did the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, which is prosecuting this case.
During the past year, officials in the Central District of California publicly warned potential victims how to identify and protect themselves from fraud similar to the scheme alleged in the indictment.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
FBI Los Angeles: 310 996-3343
United States Attorney’s Office: 213 894-6947
(Assistant United States Attorney Ellen Lindsay)