Federal agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations have charged 33 individuals with running a massive loan fraud scam scheme over the Internet that targeted more than 2,000 victims nationwide who lost more than $2.7 million.
According to the 62-count indictment returned in New York today, the defendants ran a loan fraud scheme over the Internet out of cities in the U.S. and Ontario. They used numerous web sites and search engines to direct would-be loan applicants to apply for unsecured personal loans online with fake financial companies, the indictment said.
Representatives of these make-believe virtual companies would contact the loan applicants, tell them that they were approved for loans, and then direct them to make an initial security deposit payment through Western Union to money couriers in order to receive the loans.
Despite making the security deposit, the victims never received the loans, or refunds of their money, the indictment said.
Once the victims realized they had been conned, the defendants operating the web sites shut down the old sites and established web sites for new fictional companies. The on-line listings for these companies included fictitious addresses in the U.S., and often imitated the names of actual financial firms to give the appearance of legitimacy.
"Conniving and stealing is over for this den of thieves,” said ICE Director John Morton.“ Instead of manipulating those struggling to make ends meet, the 33 members of this ring now have to answer criminal charges in federal court. Had they not been caught, these con artists would still be profiting from their charade.”
If convicted, all of the defendants face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.