One of 10 people charged in Arkansas with impersonating IRS agents to steal nearly $9 million from intimidated taxpayers in 29 states and the District of Columbia pleaded guilty Thursday before a federal judge in Little Rock.
U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson accepted a guilty plea to a single count of wire-fraud conspiracy from Dennis Delgado Caballero, 39, of Miami.
Caballero was indicted in the Eastern District of Arkansas in June along with Jeniffer Valerino Nunez, 21, of Miami. They were arrested May 23 in Miami, and remain in federal custody.
Last week, eight additional defendants, all Cubans, were added to the indictment. Seven were arrested last week in Miami and West Palm Beach, Fla., but the eighth remains at large.
Caballero pleaded guilty by speaking to Wilson through an interpreter from the federal public defender's office. With attorney Molly Sullivan at his side, he admitted to being part of a conspiracy that has resulted in a loss of $1.5 million to $3.5 million, which will result in him receiving a 16-point enhancement when sentenced Aug. 10.
Caballero also agreed to a six-point enhancement because the crime resulted in substantial financial hardship to 25 or more victims, and a two-point enhancement for pretending to act on behalf of a government agency.
Federal sentencing guidelines will suggest a penalty range within the statutory maximum of 30 years for wire-fraud conspiracy, based on the score Caballero is assessed after a pre-sentence investigation. The investigation will focus on a variety of factors, including any previous criminal history.
In return for his plea, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hunter Bridges asked Wilson to dismiss 21 individual counts of wire fraud Caballero faced. Wilson agreed.
Nunez still faces those 21 individual counts as well as the conspiracy charge. The other defendants in the case all face only the conspiracy charge.
Meanwhile, separate indictments handed up in Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas accuse four other people of participating in the scheme. Among them is Caballero's brother, Roberto Fontanella Caballero, who is under indictment in Minnesota.
In announcing the superseding indictment in Arkansas last week, Acting U.S. Attorney Pat Harris said the fraud scheme "has victimized thousands of innocent people all across the country, including a number of citizens from Arkansas."
He said the accused pretended to be government employees "and scared victims with spurious threats of legal action and imprisonment." In doing so, Harris said, they "sought to take advantage of the most vulnerable among us."
Authorities said people claiming to be Internal Revenue Service employees would call and threaten victims with legal action, arrest and imprisonment for a supposed debt owed to the agency. Victims would then wire money, as directed, through wire-transfer services such as MoneyGram and Walmart-2-Walmart Money Transfer.
In addition to Arkansas, investigators located wire transfer collections that were part of the scheme in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.
Investigators have so far identified 7,797 victims nationwide who altogether lost $8,958,995 as a result of the scam, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Arkansas, which is handling the largest of the related cases.
The amount of restitution Caballero has agreed to pay jointly and severally with any other defendants convicted in the case is $2,492,993.50, according to his plea agreement.
Metro on 05/05/2017
Print Headline: Man pleads guilty in fake IRS scheme