Imposter ‘Grandchild’ Gets 4 Years in Phone Scam of Seniors

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A Canadian phone scammer who targeted elderly victims by pretending to be their grandchildren in desperate need of money after an accident in a foreign country will spend just over four years in prison.

The upsetting phone calls came from purported grandchildren in faraway countries claiming to have just been in an accident or needing to be bailed out of jail. Other times the phone scammers pretended to be lawyers representing their grandchildren.

One victim wired $4,300 to an imposter grandchild, said prosecutors Wednesday in announcing the sentencing of one of the suspects.

Kelen Buchan, 27, of Nova Scotia was sentenced in Los Angeles federal court to a little more than 4 years in federal prison for wire fraud. Buchan was extradited to the United States this past January with several other men involved in the telemarketing ring.

He admitted in a plea agreement that elderly victims were targeted and he posed as their grandchildren while he asked them to wire money via Western Union or MoneyGram. The purported grandchildren were stranded in Canada, Mexico, Bolivia or the Dominican Republic.

Boldly, the phone scammers would follow up with some of their victims, claiming more money was needed for legal fees or other issues. Evidence of a victim’s contact information was found at Buchan’s home in Canada and investigators say they also found transaction information on Buchan’s phone.

In total, a federal grand jury indicted four Canadian nationals from the Montreal area in July 2013 on 25 courts.

Agiyl Kamaldin, 32, pleaded guilty May 23 to one count of wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney next month. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Meanwhile, co-defendants Clifford Kirstein, 29, and Mark El Bernachawy, 33, will go on trial Dec. 3. Peter Iacino, 29, also was charged in the indictment and is a fugitive believed to be in Canada.

During Buchan’s sentencing, Carney said he may not have seen a fraud case “so cruel and heartless” in design.

A recent study from researchers at Rush University’s Alzheimer’s disease center said that before memory problems manifest there are subtle changes in thinking and judgment, and some elderly patients in the study were found to be more susceptible to scams. But one victim in the study who gave money to a scammer said it was just too hard to hang up on the polite caller.

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