UPDATE: A Clifton man must spend the next five years in federal prison for a massive emailing scheme that conned businesses and individuals out of more than $1 million.
In addition to the prison term, a federal judge in Trenton sentenced Lawrence Espaillat, 42, to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $1.7 million and forfeit $12,000.
Espaillat must serve the entire term for his guilty plea to conspiracy to commit wire fraud because there’s no parole in the federal prison system.
Espaillat previously admitted working with co-conspirators Corry Pringley and Amanda Suazo to recruit “mules” to provide personal information that they used to incorporate phony businesses.
Espaillat himself began as a “mule” before rising to recruiter, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
After opening bank accounts in the names of the sham corporations, the three conspirators launched a cyberattack, Carpenito said.
First they created email addresses that were extremely similar to those of legitimate people – including supervisors at various companies, vendors that did business with them, mortgage lenders, members of brokerage firms and accountants, among them, the U.S. attorney said.
The conspirators then “used these deceptive addresses to send emails that appeared to be requests for payment of legitimate invoices or debts owed by the victims,” he said.
The victims were tricked into wiring money into the bogus bank accounts set up for that purpose, Carpenito said.
Espaillat, Suazo and Pringley then “quickly debited thousands of dollars from the accounts through in-person and ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases,” he said. “They also transferred the funds to foreign bank accounts they controlled.”
The trio kept a fraction of the proceeds as payment, the U.S. attorney said.
For example, Carpenito said, a corporate victim in Texas deposited $3.8 million dollars in a bank account opened by Pringley and controlled by Espaillat, Pringley and Suazo over a three-day period in April 2018.
They then withdrew or transferred more than $1 million from the account, he said.
Suazo and Pringley, like Espaillat, took guilty pleas.
U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan sentenced Pringley to one year and one day in prison in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The judge also ordered him to pay restitution of $1.28 million and forfeit $8,000. Suazo is awaiting sentencing.
Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service with the investigation leading to the pleas and sentences secured by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric A. Boden of his Trenton office.