TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a Bronx, N.Y., man was sentenced to state prison today for stealing a total of $142,900 from eight older adults in New Jersey using a “grandparent scam.”
Osvaldo Thomas, 41, of the Bronx, N.Y., was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Buck in Middlesex County. Thomas pleaded guilty on Feb. 19, 2021 to a second-degree charge of theft by deception.
In pleading guilty, Thomas admitted that he participated in a scam – commonly known as a “grandparent scam” – in which a caller claimed that the victim’s grandchild was in jail and that he was an attorney representing the grandchild. The caller told the victims that in order to get their grandchild out of jail, they needed to provide him with large sums of money for bail. The thefts occurred in April and May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and, in at least one instance, the victim also was told the grandchild had the coronavirus. Thomas or another individual posed as a “courier” to pick up the funds at the victim’s residence. He stole sums from the victims ranging from $10,300 to $27,000. Under the plea agreement, Thomas is responsible for paying full restitution of $142,900 to the victims.
Deputy Attorneys General Derek Miller and Aaron Witherspoon prosecuted the case and represented the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau at the sentencing hearing.
“Grandparent scams cause losses totaling in the tens of millions of dollars each year to victims in the United States,” said Attorney General Grewal. “This prison sentence sends a clear message that we will not tolerate criminals who prey on older adults, particularly con artists who scam victims by exploiting their love and concern for their grandchildren. What is more egregious, this defendant callously took advantage of the victims’ isolation from their families during the pandemic and their fears about the coronavirus.”
“Our Financial and Cyber Crimes Bureau works diligently to investigate all types of scams and bogus investment schemes, so as to guard the financial security of New Jersey residents,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge members of the public to notify us or their local police if they believe they are being targeted in a fraud scheme.”
Attorney General Grewal and Director Allende noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report fraud and other illegal activities. The public also can log on to the Division’s webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
Lieutenant Frederick Weidman and Deputy Attorneys General Miller and Witherspoon investigated the case for the DCJ Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jillian Carpenter and Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa.
Attorney General Grewal thanked the following detectives and agencies for their collaborative work on this investigation:
- Detective Anthony Sorrentino, Cherry Hill Police Department
- Detective Randy Patner, East Hanover Police Department
- Detective Joseph Zeppetelli, East Hanover Police Department
- Detective Thomas Laird, Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office
- Detective Nicholas Aumendo, Gloucester Township Police Department
- Detective Anthony Zamora, Clifton Police Department
- Lt. Robert Baracken, Clifton Police Department
- Detective Peter Ricciardi, Boonton Township Police Department
- Detective Domenick Delucia, South Brunswick Police Department
- Sgt. Sasha Higazi, Bound Brook Police Department
- Detective Jonathan Berger, Essex Fells Police Department
- Detective Alex Burchardt, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office
- Detective Sgt. M. Braccioforte, New Jersey State Police
Thomas Carroll Blauvelt, Esq., of East Brunswick, N.J.