MIAMI -- A jury in Miami convicted a Lima, Peru, man on 26 felony charges of conspiracy, fraud and attempted extortion arising from his operating call centers in Peru that lied to and threatened Spanish-speaking victims into paying fraudulent settlements, the Department of Justice announced today.
Juan Alejandro Rodriguez Cuya, 35, was convicted by a jury after less than two hours of deliberation following a two-week trial before U.S. District Court Judge Patricia A. Seitz in Miami federal court. His co-defendant at trial, Maria Luzula, 52, of Miami, pleaded guilty to all of the charges against her midway through the trial. Luzula is Cuya’s mother.
Cuya and Luzula both face a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison on each count. Both defendants remain in custody pending their sentencing on Jan. 22, 2015, and Dec. 18, respectively.
“The defendants targeted and preyed upon the Spanish-speaking community – and the evidence of the harm that their fraud caused on individual victims is heart-wrenching,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Justice Department is committed to prosecuting those who defraud consumers for their own personal gain.”
According to evidence presented at trial, the defendants’ employees in Peru used Internet-based telephone calls to threaten Spanish-speaking victims in the United States. The Peruvian callers falsely accused the victims of having refused delivery of certain products and claimed that the victims owed thousands of dollars in fines and that lawsuits would be brought against them. In reality, the victims had never ordered these products and nothing had been delivered.
Additional evidence at trial established that Luzula’s and Cuya’s employees claimed that the consumers could resolve the fines if they immediately paid a “settlement fee.” Consumers who contested these settlement fees were told that failure to pay could lead to arrest, deportation or forfeiture of property. Thousands of victims succumbed to these threats and paid fees that they did not owe. A phone room in Miami collected the fees.
Victims who testified at trial spoke of how anxious the calls made them. The victims were so afraid of the threats that they paid fees they simply could not afford.