A third member of a network that operated and facilitated a large-scale “grandparent scam” pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.
According to charges announced in August 2021, Anajah Gifford, 23, of North Hollywood, California, was a member of a network of individuals who, through extortion and fraud, induced elderly Americans across the United States to pay thousands to tens of thousands of dollars each to purportedly help their grandchild or other close family relatives. Members of the network contacted elderly Americans by telephone and impersonated a grandchild, relatives, or friends of the victim. They falsely convinced the victims that their relatives were in legal trouble and needed money to pay for bail, for medical expenses for car accident victims, or to prevent additional charges from being filed. The defendants and their co-conspirators then received money from victims via various means (including in-person pickup, mail, and wire transfer) and laundered the proceeds, including through cryptocurrency.
“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will pursue and prosecute individuals who target older Americans by preying on their concern for loved ones,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
“This was a despicable scam that packed an emotional punch for its elderly victims,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman of the Southern District of California. “It’s heartless to tell grandparents they must pay tens of thousands of dollars to rescue their beloved grandchildren from terrible trouble. These are serious crimes and there should be serious penalties.”
Gifford pleaded guilty to conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. She is scheduled to be sentenced on August 5. She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Three co-defendants remain pending trial. Two additional defendants have been charged but remain at large.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s San Diego Field Office, North County Resident Agency, with critical assistance from investigators of the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
“These guilty pleas are a prime example of the collaboration and coordination among our local, state, and federal partners who make up San Diego’s Elder Justice Task Force, and the great work being done to protect our elderly population,” said Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner of the FBI San Diego Field Office.
The department’s extensive and broad-based efforts to combat elder fraud seek to halt the widespread losses seniors suffer from fraud schemes. The best method for prevention, however, is by sharing information about the various types of elder fraud schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors, and other seniors who can use that information to protect themselves.
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: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.