MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A South Florida man is facing charges after prosecutors said he acted as a “money laundering agent for individuals perpetrating what is known as ‘the Grandparents Scam.’”
According to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, the scam involves someone posing as a grandchild or relative of the victim, and claiming to be out of town and in need of help, usually related to an arrest.
In some cases, the scammer pretends to be a relative’s lawyer or bail bondsman.
Prosecutors say the fake relative claims to need money for bail, hospital bills or other fictitious expenses and gives the victim instructions to deposit money into their bank account.
The victims are told not to tell anyone and are sometimes called additional times so the fake relative can ask for additional funds due to “negative developments” in their case, prosecutors said.
“When a 22-year-old like Alvaro Esteban Jaramillo Fajardo revels in helping to allegedly steal the savings of caring grandparents and the elderly, there is something truly wrong. Sadly, some people seem to believe that it’s always easier and more sophisticated to take someone else’s money rather than work for it oneself,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement Thursday. “The grandparent scammers and those ensuring that the scam works all deserve to hear the sound of a jail door closing behind them.
“Assisting the Aventura Police Department in this operation were the Sunny Isles Police Department, North Miami Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, Hollywood Police Department and Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, and all deserve our thanks for their hard work in helping to disrupt the activities of these scammers.”
Jaramillo Fajardo is facing charges in connection with eight victims, who range in age from 71 to 88.
The victims suffered financial losses of more than $480,000.
According to a news release from the state attorney’s office, Jaramillo Fajardo acted as the facilitator of the cash withdrawals from his associates’ bank accounts, “which effectively laundered the stolen money.”
Prosecutors said Jaramillo Fajardo paid the account holders about $2,000 for each incident they were involved in.
Authorities say Jaramillo Fajardo often sought out his associates on social media and also offered a finder’s fee if they obtained new, usable bank accounts to receive the illicit funds.
He would also brag that none of the account holders had previously gotten into any trouble, prosecutors said.
Below is a breakdown of Jaramillo Fajardo’s charges:
• 3 counts - Theft from Persons 65 Years of Age or Older - 1st degree felony
• 4 counts - Theft from Persons 65 Years of Age or Older - 2nd degree felony
• 1 count - Theft from Persons 65 Years of Age or Older - 3rd degree felony
• 1 count - Organized Scheme to Defraud - 1st degree felony
• 1 count - Conspiracy to Commit Organized Scheme to Defraud - 2nd degree felony
• 1 count - Money Laundering - 1st degree felony
“I want to thank our Aventura Police Detective Bureau and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for their exceptional work,” Aventura Police Chief Bryan Pegues said in a statement. “It is especially tragic for law enforcement professionals to see seniors in our community victimized out of their life savings by individuals without any conscience. I am so proud of our dedicated investigators who spent almost 6 months dismantling this network of criminals who caused so much anguish to so many victims.”