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Five Iowans guilty in scam targeting elderly

CEDAR RAPIDS – Five Iowans who participated in a scheme to defraud victims across the United States have pled guilty in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

Tiffany Reynolds, age 32, Joshua Willis, age 21, Payton McCarville, age 23, Morgan Cornell, age 20, and Paul Chase, age 34, all from Dubuque, Iowa, pled guilty over the last week and each was convicted of one count of wire fraud.

At their plea hearings, all five individuals admitted participating in a scheme to defraud people throughout the United States and that the fraud was primarily targeted towards the elderly. They each admitted that other individuals called victims on the phone and told these victims that a relative was in jail. The caller would then ask the victims to wire money via Western Union or MoneyGram to get the relative released. Each defendant further admitted that the money was being wired to various participants in the fraud who would pick up the wire transfers and each admitted being one of the participants in and around Dubuque who received wire transfers from the victims.

Sentencing for each individual before United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade will be set after presentence reports are prepared. Willis remains in custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing. Reynolds, McCarville, Cornell, and Chase remain free on bond previously set. Each person faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine, and 3 years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

Five other people have previously pled guilty to their roles in the scheme. On March 2, 2017, Shawn Vaassen pled guilty and admitted that he too was picking up wire transfers sent to the Dubuque area by victims. At the same plea hearing, Vaassen also pled guilty to unlawfully possessing a sawed off shotgun. On May 9, 2017, Carlos Rodriguez pled guilty and admitted that he was also picking up wire transfers sent to the Dubuque area by victims. Michael and Stephanie Marcov, a married couple, each pled guilty to wire fraud on May 19, 2017, and admitted to picking up wire transfers sent by victims. On October 19, 2017, Tobey Hines pled guilty and admitted that he was also picking up wire transfers sent by victims.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy Vavricek and Anthony Morfitt and were investigated by the Department of Homeland Security – Investigations and the Dubuque Police Department.

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