MONTREAL — Thirteen people were arrested Wednesday in connection with an alleged grandparent fraud scheme linked to organized crime, Quebec provincial police said.
Police say the alleged frauds, which targeted people in the United States, took place between May 2019 and March 2021.
The 12 men and one woman, aged between 26 and 43, were scheduled to appear in a Montreal court Wednesday afternoon, Quebec prosecutors said.
All 13 face charges of fraud over $5,000, according to charging documents. Others face a variety of additional charges, including identity theft, conspiracy and attempted fraud. Four are charged with committing an offence for a criminal organization.
Provincial police spokeswoman Sgt. Catherine Bernard said Quebec police worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other American agencies as part of the probe.
Shelley Orman, with the FBI's Baltimore field office, said U.S. authorities believe the scam stole more than US$2.5 million from 85 elderly victims.
Five residents of Florida and Maryland have already been convicted of charges related to their roles in the conspiracy, Orman said in an email.
After one of those people, Eghosasere Avboraye-Igbinedion, was convicted, the U.S. district attorney's office in Maryland said in a June news release that the fraudsters demanded tens of thousands of dollars from victims for fictitious bail, legal fees and other expenses.
"Conspirators targeted elderly victims throughout the United States, calling and posing as a police officer, lawyer, or other individual, falsely telling the victim that a relative, typically the victim’s grandchild, had been incarcerated in connection with a car accident or traffic stop involving a crime, and needed money," the district attorney's office said.
Other members of the conspiracy would pose as relatives, encouraging the target to send the money, prosecutors said, and if the victims paid, they would receive further requests for money.
"To prevent the victims from sharing the information with anyone, the conspirators allegedly told the victims that a 'gag order' had been placed on the case requiring secrecy, or that the situation was embarrassing for the grandchild and they didn’t want anyone else to know about it," the news release said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2023.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press