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Louisiana woman sentenced in $4.8 million elder fraud scheme

TYLER, Texas – A Shreveport, Louisiana woman has been sentenced to federal prison for her role in an elder fraud scheme in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.

Monica Ruiz, 45, pleaded guilty on March 24, 2021, to wire fraud and was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison today by U.S. District Judge Jeremy D. Kernodle.

“Fraud against the elderly is particularly devastating given that the victim will typically not have the ability to work their way towards financial recovery,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.  “While the Department of Justice will work tirelessly to ferret out elder fraud and punish the perpetrator, our seniors’ best defense against such fraud is, and remains, education, vigilance, and a healthy dose of skepticism.”

“The Secret Service remains committed to bringing to justice those criminals who seek to exploit our most vulnerable citizens,” said William Mack, U.S. Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge of the Tyler Resident Office. “In conjunction with the Department of Justice, as well as our state and local partners, the Secret Service will identify, pursue and seek prosecution of those that prey upon the elderly.”

According to information presented in court, Ruiz enlisted a variety of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises in a scheme to defraud an elderly victim from Bullard, Texas.  Among the various misrepresentations Ruiz made in order to obtain money from the victim were the following:

– That Ruiz had been in a coma;

– That Ruiz had brain surgery;

– That Ruiz was falsely arrested and imprisoned;

– That Ruiz had bribed a judge and prosecutor;

– That Ruiz’s son died in a car accident in Pennsylvania;

– That Ruiz was in a car accident;

– That Ruiz had a kidney transplant;

– That Ruiz’s daughter was committed to a mental institution;

– That Ruiz was incarcerated; and

– That Ruiz’s grandmother died.

At times, Ruiz impersonated other people in communications with the victim.  At other times, she created and used false personas in communications with the victim.  Over the course of her scheme, Ruiz obtained more than $4.85 million from the victim.

Ruiz was indicted by a federal grand jury on Nov. 19, 2020.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps.  Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis.  Reporting is the first step.  Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses.  The hotline is staffed 10am-6pm Eastern Time, Monday-Friday. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service with the assistance of the Tyler Police Department and the Louisiana State Police – Gaming Enforcement Division and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld.