Fraudulent call center operator sentenced to 11 years in prison

A man who defrauded over 400 US victims of millions of dollars via an international telemarketing scheme was sentenced to 133 months in prison, according to the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

Manuel Mauro Chavez, 32, of Hollywood, participated in a scheme in which telemarketers based in Costa Rica posed as US government officials to inform victims of a “prize” they had won. To collect the prize, victims had to make a series of up-front payments to cover purported taxes or other fees.

Chavez would then transfer these funds from the United States to the scheme’s participants.

He was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering, and six counts of international money laundering.

Out of 400 victims, many were elderly. The FBI, USPIS, and IRS-CI investigated the case.

The report also details two related incidents – one involving Mark Raymond Oman, who worked at the call center soliciting victims and collected victim funds in Costa Rica and received three years and one month in prison; and another concerning Paul Andy Stiep, who transmitted victims’ payments from the United States for the benefit of the call center in Costa Rica and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Telecommunication fraud is becoming extremely prevalent, with 75% of operators experiencing new or emerging incidences of fraud, according to Telecoms. Ofcom also reported that 82% of adults had received a suspicious message, mostly by text.

A similar incident lately took place in Ukraine, where threat actors posed as IT security employees at their banks.

“Fraudsters can be flexible, and they target vulnerable users, unprotected companies, and groups of people. The number of threats is rising and we predict that there is no chance that fraudsters will stop. Protection and awareness must be spread,” Dmitry Isakov, the CEO of FraudScore, a fraud detection and prevention software provider, told Cybernews.

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