3 men plead guilty to scamming R.I. seniors out of $350K

THREE MEN pleaded guilty Tuesday to scamming 14 elderly Rhode Island residents out of more than $350,000, U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said. / COURTESY U.S. DISTRICT COURT

PROVIDENCE – Three men pleaded guilty to scamming 14 elderly Rhode Island residents out of more than $350,000, U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said Tuesday.

Bryan Valdez-Espinosa, 22, and Diego A. Alarcon, 22, of Union City, N.J., and Jason Hatcher, 40, of New York, N.Y., admitted in June 2021 they traveled to New England to participate in the scam.

Hatcher pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Alarcon and Valdez-Espinosa each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

“Few things are more frightening than thinking a family member is in trouble,” Cunha said.  “These defendants exploited that fear to steal from loving grandparents and line their own pockets.”

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The victims, who ranged from 79 to 94 years old, were scammed out of between $9,500 and $85,000 each for a total of $350,815, according to court documents. A family member intervened, leading to the arrest of Valdez-Espinosa, who was posing as a courier.

The victims were contacted by phone by callers impersonating family members or attorneys. They were told that a loved one, generally a grandchild, had been arrested after being involved in a motor vehicle accident, and needed cash bail. They were directed to gather cash for fake bail payments and told to provide the money to a courier who would be sent to their home.

Valdez-Espinosa, Alarcon, and Hatcher will be sentenced on Oct. 11. The cases are being prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys William J. Ferland and Christine D. Lowell.

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