Three Guilty in Transnational East Texas Call Center Fraud Scheme

Published 9:28 am Thursday, August 26, 2021

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Scheme Targeted Over 2000 Victims and Involved Approximately $3.2 Million

TYLER, Texas – Three former Texans now living in Louisiana have pleaded guilty to federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei today.

Ronnie Duane Booth, 38, and Mary Elizabeth Beaman Booth, 40, both formerly of Forney, pleaded guilty on August 24, 2021 to aiding and abetting an unlicensed money transmitting business.  Tracey Brookshier, 52, formerly of Kingsville, pleaded guilty to the same charge on August 25, 2021 before U.S. Magistrate Judge John D. Love.

“Defrauding elder persons of their life savings deprives them of a secure future and causes significant emotional distress to both the victim and their families,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.  “EDTX is committed to holding accountable those who unconscionably prey on our senior citizens and other vulnerable populations.”

“These developments demonstrate the commitment of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to investigate and bring to justice those that victimize the American taxpayer,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  “The defendants engaged in multiple scams, often targeting the most vulnerable members of society.  The success of this investigation is the result of a collaborative effort between multiple Federal law enforcement agencies and the dedicated staff at the United States Attorney’s Office.”

According to information presented in court, the three defendants were part of a scheme which involved call center fraudulent solicitations of various kinds, including home mortgage modifications, personal loans, repayment of Social Security benefits, and IRS demands for payment.  Victims were contacted by an overseas call center and instructed to make payments through various money service businesses or by mailing payments to specified addresses.  The Booths and Brookshier were recruited to pick up those payments from the money service businesses or receive them in the mail.  They would then deposit them into accounts as instructed by others involved in the scheme.  One such co-conspirator, Jeremy Christopher Jones, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in June.

Brookshier admitted to being responsible for collecting and depositing approximately $126,000 in victim proceeds, Mary Booth admitted to being responsible for picking up and depositing approximately $155,000 in victim proceeds, and Ronnie Booth admitted to picking up and depositing approximately $91,000 in victim proceeds.  The overall scheme involved approximately $3.2 million in victims’ payments and almost 2000 victims, many of whom are elderly.

The defendants each face up to five years in federal prison.  The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

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 is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), U.S. Secret Service, and Housing and Urban Development-Office of Inspector General.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank Coan and Alan Jackson.