A New York woman has admitted to leading a fraud scheme that bilked more than $1.5 million from elderly victims.
Long Island resident Mara Ficarra, of Southampton, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday, June 6, to conspiracy to commit mail, wire, and bank fraud, according to the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District.
Federal prosecutors said Ficarra owned and led several companies, including three that published reference publications featuring biographical information of people across the country.
Between 2013 and 2018, Ficarra mailed letters and pamphlets to victims, most of them elderly, stating that the victims’ biography would be published in one of her reference publications, prosecutors said.
The letters reportedly told victims that “your two books and your plaque are paid for in full and ready for delivery.”
The only catch was that victims had to send a check for $14 “for shipping and handling,” prosecutors said.
Ficarra then used the checking account and routing numbers gleaned from those checks to make fraudulent checks for larger amounts, which she then deposited into various bank accounts and withdrew as cash, according to prosecutors.
Hundreds of victims fell for the scam, leading to more than $1.5 million in stolen funds, prosecutors said.
“Ficarra enriched herself by preying upon vulnerable elderly members of our community in an elaborate solicitation to immortalize the victims through inclusion of their biographies in reference publications she controlled, when in fact it was a scheme designed to steal their hard-earned savings,” said US Attorney Breon Peace.
“With today’s guilty plea, Ficarra has ensured that her own legacy is that of a convicted fraudster.”
Peace said his office is committed to protecting the elderly from financial fraud and ending elder abuse in all its forms.
Ficarra now faces up to five years in prison, and more than $1.5 million in forfeiture and restitution.
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