Feds: Ring of Venezuelans stole thousands in stimulus money

Jun 2, 2021, 8:31 AM | Updated: 1:55 pm

MIAMI (AP) — Federal authorities say a ring of Venezuelans living in South Florida and Mexico stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. government stimulus checks from people who were struggling financially during the the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jesus Felipe Linares Andrade, 34, was charged with conspiring to steal government money and identity theft, the Miami Herald reported.

Federal prosecutors said as many as four other “co-conspirators” originally from Venezuela may be added to an indictment.

The indictment said Linares and the unnamed co-conspirators are accused of stealing the stimulus checks and cashing them by using “fraudulent” identification documents, the Herald reported.

Linares was arrested in May, pleaded not guilty, and is being held without bond. Defense attorney David Scott Markus declined comment to the newspaper on Tuesday.

The Herald reported that Linares interacted with two informants in an FBI undercover operation.

In January, the FBI informant met in a mall parking lot near Miami with one of the four co-conspirators to discuss cashing about 30 Treasury checks totaling $36,000, the indictment said. The checks were each addressed to different U.S. taxpayers with addresses in Mexico.

In April, Linares met with the two FBI informants at another Miami area mall to discuss picking up a UPS package at a post office in Deerfield Beach, the newspaper reported. The package contained 416 checks worth about $249,000.

The affidavit said Linares made arrangements to pick up the package in mid-April and then put it in the trunk of the car being driven by the two informants. Later that month, Linares spoke to the informants again about coordinating the receipt of about $34,476 in “laundered funds” from stimulus checks, plus the delivery of an additional 226 Treasury checks worth about $135,000.

Later in April, Linares again met with the informants in Miami.

“During the meeting, Linares placed an envelope in the vehicle containing over $150,000 in stolen U.S. Treasury checks and over 30 identification documents,” according to the affidavit. The documents included some copies of driver’s licenses that matched the names on the checks.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Lead water pipes pulled from underneath the street are seen in Newark, N.J., Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Pho...

Associated Press

Biden to require cities to replace harmful lead pipes within 10 years

The Biden administration has previously said it wants all of the nation's roughly 9 million lead pipes to be removed, and rapidly.

4 days ago

Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct. 28, 2...

Associated Press

Meta shuts down thousands of fake Facebook accounts that were primed to polarize voters ahead of 2024

Meta said it removed 4789 Facebook accounts in China that targeted the United States before next year’s election.

4 days ago

A demonstrator in Tel Aviv holds a sign calling for a cease-fire in the Hamas-Israel war on Nov. 21...

Associated Press

Hamas releases a third group of hostages as part of truce, and says it will seek to extend the deal

The fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was back on track Sunday as the first American was released under a four-day truce.

9 days ago

Men look over the site of a deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 18, ...

Associated Press

New AP analysis of last month’s deadly Gaza hospital explosion rules out widely cited video

The Associated Press is publishing an updated visual analysis of the deadly Oct. 17 explosion at Gaza's Al-Ahli Hospital.

12 days ago

Peggy Simpson holds a photograph of law enforcement carrying Lee Harvey Oswald's gun through a hall...

Associated Press

JFK assassination remembered 60 years later by surviving witnesses to history, including AP reporter

Peggy Simpson is among the last surviving witnesses who are sharing their stories as the nation marks the 60th anniversary.

12 days ago

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, ...

Associated Press

Israeli Cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas; deal includes release of 50 hostages

Israel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a cease-fire deal with the Hamas militant group that would bring a temporary halt to a devastating war.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]

Follow @KTAR923...

West Hunsaker at Morris Hall supports Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona

KTAR's Community Spotlight this month focuses on Morris Hall and its commitment to supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona.

Feds: Ring of Venezuelans stole thousands in stimulus money