Miami, Fl. — South Florida federal prosecutors have charged a 41-year-old Georgia woman with fraud and identity theft crimes for allegedly leading a scam that tricked over 250 elderly South Floridians into turning over their credit cards, debit cards, and related personal identification numbers. According to the charges, defendant and her co-conspirators used the cards and PINs to steal over $1 million.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Brian Swain, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), Miami Field Office, and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), made the announcement.
According to the allegations in the criminal complaint affidavit, over approximately four years starting in 2016, Edtronda Simon, of Fayette County, Georgia, ran an elder fraud scheme that generally operated as follows: Simon would cold-call elderly victims in South Florida, pretend to be from the fraud department of each senior’s bank, and convince the seniors that their accounts had been compromised, which was false. Once a senior seemed convinced, Simon would offer to send a “bank representative” to the elderly victim’s home to exchange any compromised credit or debit card with a new one, says the complaint. Usually with Simon still on the call trying to persuade the senior to verify a PIN number, a co-conspirator would arrive at the victim’s home, take the victim’s credit or debit card, and promise to return with a new one (which, of course, never happened), according to the complaint affidavit. The co-conspirators allegedly would use the seniors’ credit cards, debit cards, and PINs to withdraw cash from ATMs, purchase money orders, and otherwise drain money from the accounts as quickly as possible – before real bank fraud representatives caught on to the illegal activity.
The complaint charges that through this scheme, Simon and her co-conspirators duped over 250 seniors from Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River and other South Florida counties into turning over debit cards, credit cards, and related information. They defrauded banks of over $1 million, says the complaint affidavit.
In a separate case filed earlier this year in the Southern District of Florida (case no. 20-cr-80037), prosecutors charged six of Simon’s co-conspirators for their involvement in this elder fraud scheme: Shaumbrica Stubbs, Luclesse Vernesse, Samuel Charles, Ian Felder, Diedre Dixon, and Shaquille Robinson, all Florida residents. Stubbs and Charles have pleaded guilty.
Simon had her initial appearance on September 17, 2020, before a federal magistrate judge in Georgia, where law enforcement officers arrested her. Other proceedings will take place in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed the charges of access device fraud, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft against Simon.
“Elder fraud targets some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan. “People who steal from seniors while pretending to help them are the worst kind of criminal because they exploit human trust. We will vigorously prosecute such cases in order to protect the integrity of our financial systems, and to prevent financial and emotional losses to those who can least afford them.”
USSS Miami and PBSO are handling the investigation, along with federal task force officers from the Coral Springs Police Department, Pembroke Pines Police Department, and Plantation Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Rhee Osborne of the Southern District of Florida is prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chris Huber, Russell Phillips, Jolee Porter, and Alex Sistla of the Northern District of Georgia provided substantial assistance.
U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan explained that this was a team effort not just for law enforcement, but for prosecutors as well. “We could not have located and arrested Edtronda Simon without the exceptional assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia,” she said.
Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. The mission of the Department’s Elder Justice Initiative is to support and coordinate the Department’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target our nation’s seniors. To learn more visit https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice. The public is encouraged to report victimization and suspected fraud schemes by calling the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD 11 (1-833- 372-8311).
A federal criminal complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Related court documents and information appear on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov under case number 20-mj-8241.