PHILADELPHIA – First Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Erick Wandique, 26, of Allentown, Pennsylvania was sentenced to three years in prison, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $87,657 and forfeiture in the same amount by United States District Court Judge Edward G. Smith for his scheme to impersonate, and steal from, his stepfather.
In March 2020, the defendant pleaded guilty to eight counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, after being charged with a nine-count Indictment in August 2016. The charges arose from Wandique’s electronic communications with Fidelity Investments in which he pretended to be his stepfather, Luis Flores, in order to authorize fraudulent bank transactions and debit purchases, resulting in the depletion of nearly all of Flores’ Fidelity retirement account.
From December 2014 through March 2015, Wandique went on a spending spree utilizing his stepfather’s retirement savings: withdrawing cash, making wire transfers of funds, arranging payments through the BillPay service for the account, making debit purchases at retail stores, and even taking his friends on a trip to California. After a family member confronted him about his inexplicable newfound income and spending, the defendant fled the United States by flying to Honduras, which does not have an extradition agreement with the United States. On August 25, 2019, the defendant was arrested after he attempted to reenter the United States on a flight to New Orleans, LA.
“It’s hard to imagine victimizing your own family, but Wandique took advantage of an opportunity to do just that,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Williams. “Here, the defendant drained his stepfather’s lifetime of savings – money earned to support himself in retirement – and when his family and the law caught on to him, Wandique fled the country. If you are charged in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with a federal offense, we will find you and hold you accountable for your actions.”
“Mr. Wandique’s sentencing underscores the importance of vigilance against financial fraud schemes,” said Brian A. Michael, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Philadelphia. “Even after Mr. Wandique fled from prosecution, Homeland Security Investigations worked closely with Interpol and international partners to ensure he was apprehended and brought to justice. Mr. Wandique will now be held accountable for swindling his family member.”
“Today’s sentencing is the culmination of years of collaboration between the Pennsylvania State Police and its federal law enforcement partners to seek justice for the victim in this case,” said Major Jeremy Richard, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “Despite occurring behind the anonymity of a computer, wire fraud and identity theft are serious crimes that can quickly erase a lifetime of savings from unsuspecting victims and devastated families.”
The case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, Interpol, and the Pennsylvania State Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Diviny.