BOSTON – A Dominican national pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Boston in connection with a scam in which he and co-conspirators defrauded victims by pretending to be employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Leonel Alexis Valerio Santana, 28, pleaded guilty to two conspiracies: a conspiracy to commit money laundering, and a separate conspiracy to commit wire fraud, to impersonate a federal employee, and to misuse a government seal. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for Aug. 14, 2018. In January 2018, Valerio Santana was arrested and charged by criminal complaint along with co-conspirator Frank Gregory Cedeno, 27, of Ocoee, Fla.
From at least June 2015 through November 2017, Valerio Santana conspired with others to defraud victims by pretending to be employees of the SEC. In that guise, members of the conspiracy demanded money from victims, directing them to send it to members of the conspiracy, including members in Boston. The conspirators who received the money generally withdrew it from bank accounts quickly, then forwarded much of it to individuals in the Dominican Republic, including to Valerio Santana, who received it. In one common version of the scam, victims received e-mails that used official-seeming documentation with the SEC seal to support a false claim that the victim must pay a fee in order to receive a portion of a legal settlement. In another version of the scheme, victims received e-mails and official-seeming documents labeling the victim as a defendant in a civil lawsuit alleging that the victim owed tens of thousands of dollars in supposed disgorgement, penalties and fees. The documents gave the victim a choice of either appearing in court to contest the lawsuit or paying a smaller fee.
Between June 2015 and June 2017, there were at least 95 victims targeted by the scam, with fraudulent solicitations exceeding $1.3 million and actual losses of more than $235,000.
Cedeno was indicted in March 2018 and has pleaded not guilty.
The charge of conspiracy provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss in the offense, and restitution. The charge of money laundering conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $500,000 or twice the funds involved in the money laundering offense, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Carl W. Hoecker, Inspector General of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Office of Inspector General; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian A. Pérez‑Daple of Lelling’s Criminal Division is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the court documents are allegations. The remaining defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.