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6 people arrested in Florida for stealing nearly $250,000 in ‘grandparent scam’

Six suspected fraudsters were arrested in Florida for stealing nearly $250,000 from senior citizens in the state through a “grandparent scam,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced Monday.

The suspects approached senior citizens and posed as their grandchildren's lawyers. They told the victims that the grandchild needed bail money after being arrested for hitting a pregnant woman with a car, Moody said. The suspects then arranged for the victim to send them money.

All six suspects – Jairo Izquierdo, Gennesis Castro, Wendy Angelina Ortiz, Ada Tido, Wandy Castro and Olfa Cornielle – are accused of several serious first-degree crimes, including organized fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal identification.

“These scammers know that most grandparents would do anything to help a grandchild in need. Using a convincing fraud scheme, they preyed on fear and family to extort Florida seniors – and stole nearly a quarter of a million dollars,” Moody said in a press release. “Working with our amazing law enforcement partners in South Florida, we were able to stop this far-reaching grandparent scheme, and now six scammers must answer for their crimes.”

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Gennesis Castro (left) and Ada Tido (right) are among six suspects charged in the “grandparent scams,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced. (Miami-Dade County Jail)

After the alleged fraudsters told the victims the made-up story about the grandchildren, they pressured the seniors to post bail.

According to investigators, the suspects asked the victims to provide the bail in cash and place it in a box, which would be picked up by couriers – unsuspecting ride-sharing drivers requested by the suspects – and taken to an agreed location.

“I am immensely proud of the Miami-Dade Police Department's Vice Intelligence Squad and their exceptional collaboration with the Florida Attorney General and federal authorities in successfully apprehending individuals involved in elder extortion,” Miami-Dade Police Department Director Stephanie V. Daniels said in the release. “Their dedication, expertise and tireless commitment to protecting our community's most vulnerable population is truly commendable.”

The suspects contacted the seniors posing as a grandson's lawyers, telling them that the grandchild needed money for bail after being arrested for hitting a pregnant woman with a car. (Matthias Balk/Picture Alliance via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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In some cases, the suspects contacted the same victim multiple times to demand more cash.

In one case, one of the senior citizens paid $9,000 before being later told that the pregnant woman had suffered a miscarriage and would be charged an additional $18,000 due to higher fees.

The suspects then told the same victim that the baby's father had attacked the victim's grandson, causing the miscarriage, and that the grandchild had elbowed a police officer during the attack, which resulted in an additional $20,000 bail and $7,500 in court costs. The alleged scammers received more than $54,000.

Another senior citizen had a similar situation and paid the scammers $53,000.

Ashley Moody

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said investigators were able to “put an end to this widespread grandparent scam, and now six fraudsters must answer for their crimes.” (Getty Images)

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In another case, a victim paid $8,000 and the suspects came back the next day demanding another $4,000 for the grandson's bail after claiming the pregnant woman had lost her baby. The next day, the suspects claimed the grandson owed medical bills as a result of the incident and demanded another $1,700.

Another victim paid $30,000 bail and later wired another $7,000 after the scammers claimed the pregnant woman had died, resulting in a bail increase.

The suspects targeted seniors in several counties, including Brevard, Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Sarasota.

Anna Harden

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