By Narayan Ammachchi
The Dominican Republic has arrested 17 men on suspicion of stealing data from call centers and extorting money from American citizens. Police in the island state are reportedly hunting for four more suspects.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the suspects impersonated its special agents and extorted about US$880,000. The suspects targeted individuals who they believed had illicitly purchased prescription pharmaceuticals through call centers located in the Dominican Republic.
They would call victims in the United States and identify themselves as DEA agents. The victims would then be told that they were under investigation for illegally purchasing prescription drugs, and that the only way to avoid arrest and jail would be to pay a “fine” to the DEA.
In total, the detainees and others who participated in this scheme demanded at least US$3.5 million, and received at least US$880,000, according to US prosecutors. The detainees are currently awaiting extradition to the United States.
“These alleged criminals not only bilked thousands of dollars from unsuspecting Americans but they also called into question the integrity and honor of the DEA and all law enforcement,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.
The data collected by the criminals, according to Dominican papers, contained the drug purchasers’ names, address, credit card numbers and other information. It is unclear how the fraudsters obtained the data and neither Dominican nor U.S. authorities have disclosed the name of the call center tied to the case.
“These defendants generated untold millions of dollars in illicit profits by posing as DEA Agents or other U.S. law enforcement officers,” stated U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.