Phoenix police arrested and charged more than a dozen people this week for their roles in a telemarketing scam that saw them defraud thousands of senior citizens to the tune of $40 million, according to KTAR News.
Police say the suspects promised victims huge returns on their investments, but instead bilked them of their retirement savings.
The investigation began in 2014 after a 75-year-old Iowa woman was convinced to invest her money in a company called WyzeMoney, which promised her money back with no risk, but instead committed credit card fraud and stole her money.
The woman in Iowa wasn’t alone; the Phoenix Police, in conjunction with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and The Better Business Bureau, found roughly 9,000 people across the country who fell prey to the scam and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in WyzeMoney.
WyzeMoney set up call centers across Maricopa County, where workers would call seniors and promise a 100% money back guarantee in return for their credit card information.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said at a press conference that all victims were older than 65, and some had disabilities.
“Many of these folks were cheated out of their retirement savings and suffered great financial loss,” she said.
The Federal Trade Commission helped shut down the ring in 2016 and recovered $7 million for the victims, but it took Phoenix police five years to build their investigation into the 13 suspects, with warrants finally being issued in September 2019.
Deputy Chief Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said the investigation took so long because prosecutors had to examine hundreds of thousands of document pages to build their case.
The suspects now face charges including money laundering, conspiracy to commit fraudulent schemes, and theft from a vulnerable adult. Four of the 13 suspects have been identified as top level members of the organization, according to Newsweek.
Chief Williams said further arrests could be made as the investigation proceeds.