MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – Criminal charges have been filed for a Connecticut man after he allegedly stole thousands from elderly victims in Wisconsin through a fraudulent scheme.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin, 26-year-old Matthew Ramos-Soto was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring with others to defraud Wisconsin residents.
The indictment alleges that from October 24 to 28, 2022, unknown conspirators contacted elderly individuals by telephone and falsely represented that a relative had been arrested following an accident and that money for bail was needed. This is commonly known as the Grandparent Scam.
The indictment further alleges that Ramos-Soto and his co-conspirators traveled throughout Wisconsin to pick up cash in person from the targeted individuals.
“Elder fraud is a serious issue, and we’re committed to combating it,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul. “Thank you to those in Wisconsin DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation and the other public safety professionals whose work led to this charge.”
Co-conspirators impersonated attorneys or judges, provided victims with false file or case numbers, and warned them that there was “a gag order” in their relative’s court case and their relative could face additional consequences if the victim told anyone about the situation.
“Unfortunately, scams targeting the elderly or vulnerable are proliferating. If someone demands money over the phone or internet, always reach out to a trusted advisor, law enforcement agency, or the fraud hotlines described below,” said U.S. Attorney O’Shea. “My office is committed to working with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who target vulnerable individuals for financial gain.”
Victims were instructed to go to their financial institution to withdraw the needed money in cash and to provide a false reason for the withdrawal to their financial institution.
The indictment alleges that Ramos-Soto and his co-conspirators obtained around $200,000 during the five days of the conspiracy in October 2022. Three specific incidents in Wisconsin, including $5,000 from an individual in Wrightstown, $17,545 from an individual in Fitchburg, and $12,500 from an individual in Hobart.
Ramos-Soto is in custody in Michigan, and a date for his initial appearance in U.S. District Court has not been set. If convicted, Ramos-Soto could face the maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
“I commend our long list of local and state law enforcement partners in bringing this perpetrator to justice,” said Special Agent in Charge Hensle. “Elder fraud is a serious crime. Many of our senior citizens are targeted by unscrupulous individuals seeking to exploit their vulnerabilities, taking advantage of their trust and causing significant financial and emotional harm. The FBI will continue to work with our partners and ensure that justice is served.”
U.S. Attorney O’Shea, Attorney General Kaul, and Special Agent in Charge Hensle urge Wisconsin residents to be alert to financial fraud schemes that target the elderly and to talk to family and friends about recognizing common scams.
If you suspect fraud has occurred or been attempted, report it to authorities so that those who commit fraud can be identified.
The charge against Ramos-Soto is the result of an investigation led by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation following a Statewide Crime Alert by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office that connected several investigations across Wisconsin.
The other agencies involved in the investigation are the Outagamie, Shawano, Manitowoc, and Brown County Sheriff’s Offices and the New Lisbon, Wrightstown, Fitchburg, Reedsburg, Randolph, Fox Valley Metro, Hobart Lawrence, Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Fond du Lac Police Departments.