A Jamaica, NY, resident who allegedly took up temporary residences in New Haven, CT, and Brookline, MA, where he allegedly retrieved packages containing cash sent by individuals victimized by grandparent scams in several states, including Rhode Island, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Rhode Island on fraud and aggravated identity theft charges, announced US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha on Monday.
The indictment charges Jean-Richard Audate, 35, with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, three counts of mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
It is alleged in the indictment that Audate and others participated in a conspiracy to defraud elderly victims by posing on the telephone as their grandchild or other family member, or an attorney representing a family member. The caller would convince victims that their family member had been arrested or incarcerated in another state or, was in financial and legal distress; and that cash payments were urgently needed to pay legal fees or related costs. Victims were instructed to send cash payments via FedEx or UPS to addresses provide by the conspirators.
According to information presented to the court, beginning in January 2021, the New Haven Police Department began to receive reports from several out-of-state police departments, including departments in Rhode Island, that elderly residents had been defrauded of large amounts of money through a grandparent scam. The victims were instructed to send cash payments to addresses in New Haven. New Haven Police determined that many of the addresses were in close proximity to one another, including the address of an Airbnb allegedly utilized by Audate. It is alleged that Audate visited many of the addresses and retrieved the packages, many of which New Haven Police and the FBI determined allegedly contained between as $7,900 and $150,000 in cash.
Audate was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Providence on February 24, 2022, and released on $10,000 unsecured bond.
A federal criminal indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland.
United States Attorney Cunha thanks the Lincoln, RI, and Brookline, MA, Police Departments for their assistance in the investigation.