ICE probe results in indictment of trio alleging international conspiracy to defraud elderly by posing as federal agents threatening arrest
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested two Riverside County men today on an indictment alleging they participated in an international conspiracy that deceived elderly victims into sending more than $500,000 in cash by pretending to be federal agents threatening them with arrest on bogus warrants.
The federal grand jury indictment unsealed today charges a total of three Lake Elsinore residents with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud:
- Anuj Mahendrabhai Patel, 30, a.k.a. “Mike” and “Indio”;
- Elmer Miranda Barrios, 35, whose aliases include “Welbin Raul Mejia” and “Joe Rodriguez”; and
- William Margarito Barrios, 36, Elmer Barrios’s cousin, who faces an additional charge of being an illegal alien who re-entered the United States following deportation.
Elmer and William Barrios were taken into federal custody today and are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Riverside. Patel’s arraignment is expected in the coming weeks.
According to court documents, from April 2019 until March 2020, other members of the conspiracy, some of whom are believed to be in India, telephoned victims and pretended to be government employees or law enforcement officers. Using a variety of false pretenses – including phony badge numbers and using spoofed government telephone numbers – the co-conspirators convinced the victims, most of whom were over the age of 55, that their identities or assets were in trouble.
For example, some victims were told that their Social Security numbers had been linked to crimes and that there were warrants issued by courts authorizing the victims’ arrests. The co-conspirators further told the victims that in order to clear the warrants, they should withdraw their savings and send cash by mail to other members of the scheme.
The victims were ordered to send the parcels through shipping companies that allowed parcel recipients to pick up parcel so long as the recipients had identification matching the names listed on the parcel as the addressees. The addresses the defendants gave primarily were at locations in Riverside County, but also in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.
Patel allegedly used tracking numbers to monitor the victims’ parcels and communicated with couriers – Elmer and William Barrios – who used fraudulent identification documents matching the names listed on the parcels as addresses.
For example, in February 2020, Patel allegedly received a UPS parcel containing $10,000 from an 82-year-old victim that was addressed to “Victor Efrain DePaz” in Hemet.
The total loss alleged in this case is approximately $541,420 and the defendants allegedly conspired to receive more than 50 parcels sent by the scheme’s victims.
If convicted, Patel and Elmer Barrios would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, while William Barrios’s maximum penalty would be 22 years in federal prison.
The investigation into this matter was led by HSI Los Angeles. Assistance was provided by the Social Security Administration; the U.S. Department of Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; the Murrieta Police Department; the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the Huntington Beach Police Department; the Fullerton Police Department; the Stanislaus County (California) Sheriff’s Department; the Seattle Police Department; the Brownsville (Texas) Police Department; the St. James Parish (Louisiana) Sheriff’s Office; the Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office; the Addison (Illinois) Police Department; the Columbus (Ohio) Division of Police; the Northwest Lancaster County (Pennsylvania) Regional Police Department; the Edison Township (New Jersey) Police Department; and the St. Petersburg (Florida) Police Department.
This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s Riverside Branch Office. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles is one of six offices participating in the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of federal law enforcement and non-governmental organizations to combat international fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors.