A Canadian man who devised an elaborate scheme to defraud elderly U.S. citizens while using monetary transmitters like Western Union and Bitcoin has been caught. Stephan Moskwyn is looking at up to thirty years in federal prison for money laundering and related crimes performed in Southern Florida.

Scammed grandparents into thinking relatives were in financial trouble

The basic premise was simple: Call the large elderly population in Florida from a Canadian call center and purport to be a grandchild or other relative in need of money, due to a legal issue or accident. The callers would have them send the funds in the form of pre-paid debit cards, or money orders via Western Union, which would later be cashed in foreign markets like Chile and the Dominican Republic.

Then “virtual money orders” were converted to Bitcoin by Moskwyn. He had bought pre-paid debit cards in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to execute the scams, which is when he met with witnesses who were working for federal law enforcement, according to documents submitted to the court. Those who were scammed would even go the extra mile to help, sending more funds than requested multiple times, according to federal investigators.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said:

"This scam exploited the kindness and trust of elderly American citizens by convincing them that loved ones were in trouble and needed money […] Criminals who engage in these scams must know that they are not safe from prosecution, merely because they operate from foreign countries or use virtual currencies."

Moskwyn spent times traveling between Miami, Chile and the Dominican Republic, buying more pre-paid debit cards when he was in Miami. He was finally arrested by the authorities last week on one of his flights between Chile and the Dominican Republic, during a layover in Miami. Moskwyn will be arraigned in the coming days.