A Clifton man admitted in federal court on Wednesday that he helped mastermind a massive emailing scheme that scammed more than $1 million from businesses and individuals.
Lawrence Espaillat, 41, said he worked with co-conspirators Corry Pringley and Amanda Suazo to recruit “mules” to provide personal info that was used to incorporate phony businesses under their names.
The ringleaders then opened bank accounts in the names of the sham companies, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
Next came a cyber attack in which they created email addresses that were extremely similar to those of legitimate people.
These included supervisors at various companies, vendors that did business with them, mortgage lenders, members of brokerage firms and accountants, among them, Carpenito said.
The conspirators “used these deceptive addresses to send emails that appeared to be requests for payment of legitimate invoices or debts owed by the victims,” the U.S. attorney said.
The victims were tricked into wiring money into the bogus bank accounts set up for that purpose, he said.
Espaillat, Suazo and Pringley then “quickly debited thousands of dollars from the accounts through in-person and ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases,” Carpenito said. “They also transferred the funds to foreign bank accounts they controlled.”
The trio kept a fraction of the proceeds as payment, he said.
For example, Carpenito said, a corporate victim in Texas deposited $3.8 million dollars in a bank account opened by Pringley and controlled by Espaillat, Pringley and Suazo over a three-day period in April 2018.
They then withdrew or transferred more than $1 million from the account, he said.
Suazo and Pringley pleaded guilty earlier this year for their roles in the scheme and were awaiting sentencing.
Espaillat – who Carpenito said began as a “mule” before rising to recruiter -- was scheduled to be sentenced on July 30 for his guilty plea to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI and of the U.S. Secret Service with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric A. Boden of his Trenton office is handling the case for the government.
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