INDIANAPOLIS — A New York man will spend more than eight years in federal prison for his role in a nationwide scam targeting older Americans.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana said Jasaun (Biz) Pope is the first of five people to be sentenced after pleading guilty to their roles in the fraud.
In the scam, members of the conspiracy made phone calls to elderly victims in Indiana and nationwide, claiming that their grandchild or other relative had an urgent legal or medical problem and needed money immediately. They claimed to be authority figures and told them to mail money to help their relatives.
The office said Pope’s crew would travel to cities to identify unoccupied residences to use as cash delivery addresses. Pope would then relay this information to Darlens Renard, who provided them to other members of the conspiracy.
The office said this sophisticated criminal network, through extortion and fraud, induced elderly Americans across the United States to pay tens of thousands of dollars to help their grandchild or other close family relatives in a scam known as a “Grandparent Scam.”
“These sophisticated criminal organizations exploit the elderly by preying on the love and commitment they have for their families. These heinous frauds wreak immeasurable financial and emotional harm on victims to satisfy the greed of networks of criminals. Our office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute scammers who seek to take advantage of vulnerable members of our community.”United States Attorney Zachary A. Myers
To date, investigators have identified over 68 suspected victims and identified losses amounting to over $683,464. Of those 68, only 36 have responded to investigators’ efforts to contact them.
A probable cause affidavit filed in the case said the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department first became aware of the scheme when they got a tip from a police department in Orleans, Massachusetts. The department told IMPD that an 81-year-old woman was recently scammed by someone who claimed her grandniece was involved in a car accident.
In the call, the scammer told the woman that her grandniece was in legal trouble and needed $9,000 to help pay for her medical care and legal assistance. The document said the woman sent the money to an Indianapolis address.
After the scammer got the money, the document said they contacted the woman again saying her grandniece’s case was going well, but they needed another $9,000. Around the same time, the woman was able to get in contact with her grandniece and find out the story was false.
The woman sent the package but alerted the police. The document said officers with IMPD watched the residence where the package was to be delivered. It appeared to be unoccupied and had a realty sign in the front yard indicating it was for sale or rent, with an offer pending.
While watching the property, the document said police saw a vehicle driving by the residence several times before stopping, The driver left the vehicle, took the package from the porch, and put it in the rear hatch of the vehicle before driving away.
The officer stopped the vehicle and asked the occupants of the vehicle about the package. The document said the occupants told the officer that they were looking for houses to buy and decided to steal the package.
During further investigation, the documents said one of the occupants told the officer that the other person asked her if she wanted to pick up packages to make extra money. The other person got a text directing them to the house and after picking it up they would get a text about where to drop it off.
After the document said one of the detectives told the person that there were a lot of victims in the case and that their life savings had been taken. The person gave the police their cell phone and helped them locate the place where they were staying.
After getting a warrant, the document said detectives searched the property and found Pope among others inside. While searching the property, the document said detectives found thousands of dollars, Indianapolis addresses linked to potential fraud victims, and packages connected to other potential victims.
“The Metro Drug Task Force is proud of the work of our investigators who stepped outside their normal scope of investigations to bring these criminals to justice. We want to thank our federal and international partners for their cooperation to bring this case together. For those criminals that wish to victimize central Indiana communities, the Task Force will continue to use whatever means available to them to find bad actors and make our communities safer.”Bryan P. Smith, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Marion County Prosecutor’s Office
After contacting the senders of the packages, the document said detectives learned about how they got scammed.
One of the senders was an 86-year-old man from Greenville, South Carolina. The man said he got a call from someone claiming to be his grandson’s attorney. The document said the scammer told the man that his grandson damaged property and needed $7,000 to fix it.
Another victim was an 82-year-old woman from Crawfordsville, Indiana. The document said she got a call from someone claiming that her daughter was in an accident and a firearm was found in the vehicle. She was told to send a total of $12,500 and that there was a gag order in place. Further investigation uncovered that this was an attempt to prevent victims from talking with others about the scam.
Yet another victim was an 82-year-old man who said he got a call from someone claiming that his grandson was in an accident involving a police officer. The document said he ended up sending a total of $19,000. He also sent a package with $7,500 but was able to get it recalled.
One of the packages was intercepted by UPS prior to delivery. The document said the sender was a 66-year-old from Rhode Island. While they couldn’t talk to police due to being in poor health, a relative told police that she was instructed to pack $4,000 inside magazines before mailing it.
Another package that was intercepted was sent by an 80-year-old New York man. The document said the man sent $16,000 believing he was paying a bondsman for his grandson.
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to vigorously pursue those who utilize the U.S. Mail to advance their fraud schemes. Crimes of these type bring grave financial and personal hardships to their victims. Criminal misuse of the U.S. Mail will not be tolerated, and our agency will continue to go after those who seek to take advantage of vulnerable individuals.”Rodney Hopkins, Inspector in Charge of the Detroit Division
In the government’s charging memorandum against Pope, Myers said this was not the first time Pope was involved in a grandparent scam. In 2020, Pope was sentenced to five years probation after being arrested in New York for the same offense.
The memo says Pope, along with his conspirators, were arrested by local law enforcement during this investigation, were released, and continued to commit the same offense. Myers said Pope is a recidivist and believes the law does not apply to him.
Along with serving a 97-month sentence, Pope was ordered to pay $554,574.02 total in restitution to 28 victims. Darlens Renard, Princess Elizer, Jennifer Glemeau, and Kareem Brown also pleaded guilty. They are awaiting sentencing.
The memo said grandparent scams have been around since 2008, but have gotten more sophisticated over the year. Data from the FBI shows from January 2020 to June 2021, there have been more than 650 reports of potential grandparent scams resulting in losses of more than $13 million.
The memo said the scam is particularly egregious, as it rocked the foundation of the many elderly victims impacted.
“Honest and hard-working citizens are fed up with criminals who exploit the vulnerable through scams and deceit. “Those who engage in this type of cruel financial fraud should know they will not fly under the radar and will be held accountable.”Justin Campbell, Special Agent in Charge, Chicago Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation
The Justice Department has established a National Elder Fraud Hotline to provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. If you, or someone you know, is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline by calling 1-833-372-8311. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.