NY man stole hundreds of thousands from RI seniors in 'grandparent scam' is going to prison

A New York City man was sentenced to prison Monday for his part in a conspiracy that scammed 14 Rhode Islanders, aged 79 to 94, out of nearly $400,000, U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced.

Jason Hatcher, 40, was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison followed by three years of federal supervised release, Cunha said in a press release. U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith also ordered Hatcher to pay $394,033 in restitution.

Hatcher pleaded guilty on July 5 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Two other men also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

How the scam worked

In a so-called "grandparent scam," the victims were contacted over the telephone by people claiming to be family members or attorneys, according to Cunha. The victims were told that a family member, usually a grandchild, had been in a car crash and needed money for bail, or other associated costs. The victims were typically told to give the money to a courier who would come to their home, or send it somewhere.

Elder fraud is real:Tell your parents, grandparents and friends about these scams


Hatcher and his co-conspirators played various roles in the scam, with Hatcher usually meeting the victims to collect the money, Cunha said.

For example, on one day, June 11, 2021, Hatcher collected $18,800 from a Cumberland woman, $12,000 from a Cranston woman and $6,000 from a Warwick woman, according to court records.

On the same day, the scammers took $99,825 from a Warwick woman after she was called by somebody impersonating her grandson, who claimed to have been in a car crash while reaching for his cell phone. The scammers first tricked the woman into giving $15,500 to a courier for bail, then told her more money was needed and had her send amounts of $20,000, $40,000 and $24,225 to a Florida address.

A person claiming to be her grandson's attorney told her not to discuss the case with anyone because a judge had put on a gag order.

Two co-defendants, Bryan Valdez-Espinosa, 22, and Diego A. Alarcon, 22, of Union City, N.J., pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and are awaiting sentencing in U.S. District Court in Providence.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: NY man sentenced in 'grandparent scam' that stole from RI seniors