Indictment charges 22 with conspiracy to commit fraud, identity theft in Puerto Rico Lottery scheme
SAN JUAN – As a result of a scheme in which $560,640.43 was illegally obtained from the Bureau of the Lottery of Puerto Rico, a division of the Puerto Rico Treasury Department, a federal grand jury returned a 37-count indictment charging 22 people with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 18 substantive counts of bank fraud, and 16 counts of aggravated identity theft, the Justice Department said Friday.
According to the indictment, one defendant produced or procured fraudulent checks using the names and addresses of businesses operating in Puerto Rico as apparent issuers of the checks, referred to as Fake Employers, specifying the routing and account number for the PR Lottery’s bank account.
The false checks were issued payable to defendants as employees or contractors.
The indictment alleges that the co-conspirators would take the false checks to multiple discount stores to negotiate them in exchange for cash or to use them to buy consumer products and return the proceeds of the scheme to Natalie Enid González-Rodríguez, who would then give them a portion of those proceeds.
González-Rodríguez is facing 16 counts of aggravated identity theft. Between on or about Oct. 2, 2015 through Dec. 13, 2018, “aided and abetted” by the other defendants, “and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, did knowingly transfer, possess, and use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another real person as detailed in each count during and in relation to the bank fraud,” the Justice Department said.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum possible sentence of incarceration of 30 years for bank fraud, and a consecutive two-year mandatory minimum sentence for aggravated identity theft.
“Defendant González-Rodríguez perpetrated this fraudulent scheme over many years, and involved many people who are defendants today for a fragment of the proceeds she generated,” U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez said in the release.
The U.S. Secret Service was in charge of the investigation and the case is being prosecuted by AUSA Dennise N. Longo-Quiñones.
“These crimes have a detrimental impact to our nation’s critical financial infrastructure. Financial fraud is one of the largest challenges facing American citizens and businesses today,” U.S. Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge Carlos Colón added.