Chapel Hill Man, Alberto Garcia Pleads Guilty in Elder Fraud Home Repair Scheme
Swindled over $3M from Older Homeowners in Durham, Orange, and Chatham Counties
Greensboro, N.C (STL.News) Matthew G.T. Martin, United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, announced today that JORGE ALBERTO GARCIA, also known as “Alberto Garcia” and “Roberto Garcia”, pled guilty to a Bill of Information charging one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, that is, a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises, in a home repair scheme, as well as two counts of failure to file income tax returns.
“We will not tolerate elder fraud. It is despicable conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Martin. “I commend the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigations Division, and the local law enforcement agencies involved in his investigation who helped stop this abuse and bring about today’s plea.”
The Information alleges that from on or about September 2015 to and including April 2020, GARCIA approached elderly, retired individuals at their private residences in Durham, Orange, and Chatham Counties, offering home improvement services using the business names “J&J Home Improvement” and “JH Home Improvements, Inc.” Many of these victims had physical or mental infirmities . GARCIA—who never had a state general contractor’s license—would offer to perform home improvement projects and these elderly individuals would, in turn, pay him prior to the completion of any construction work via personal checks, credit cards, or withdrawals from investment accounts. GARCIA would often direct that these individuals leave the “to” line of the check blank (which would later be completed in the name of his wife), or issue the check directly to his wife, who, in turn, deposited the checks into personal accounts in her name or that of her business, La Cacerola. GARCIA’s wife would then withdraw the money in cash and/or issue a cashier’s check made out to GARCIA. GARCIA and his wife would also take the checks to the elderly individual’s bank or their bank and cash the checks without depositing the funds into their bank accounts.
Filed documents further state GARCIA would develop personal relationships with these elderly individuals, calling them “Momma” and “Poppa,” and encourage them to solicit their neighbors to engage his services in home improvement projects for their residences, as well. GARCIA also solicited loans from some of the elderly individuals for whom he had already contracted to perform home improvement projects, separate and apart from those projects. In at least one instance, he received a check from a victim for such a loan and returned to that victim’s home later that same day to request the loan again. The victim, not remembering that he had written the first check, issued yet another check for the same amount to GARCIA.
However, GARCIA would not complete the contracted home improvement projects, nor would he repay any loans in full. When the contracting individual, a concerned relative of that person, or a local law enforcement officer confronted GARCIA about the payments, GARCIA would respond in the following ways: a) GARCIA would promise to send workers to complete the project but never fully complete the project; b) GARCIA or his wife would return a small percentage of the monies paid for the project; and/or c) GARCIA or his wife would write a personal check to the contracting individual that would be returned by the issuing bank as lacking sufficient funds. On more than one instance, GARCIA urged the victim not to contact the authorities about the unfinished work.
Review of records from bank accounts known to be controlled by GARCIA and/or his wife for the time period spanning May 2014 through November 2019 indicates that, as a result of the above-described scheme to defraud, GARCIA obtained a total of approximately $3,258,511.48 belonging to multiple victims.
Further, as reflected in the factual basis filed in support of GARCIA’s guilty plea, GARCIA and his wife have filed no federal income taxes since 2007, either personally or for their respective businesses. For the tax years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, GARCIA and his wife had a joint income totaling $3,242,130.00. In calendar years 2017 and 2018, GARCIA had and received gross income exceeding the amount required to file an income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service; GARCIA knew this and willfully failed to file a return.
“Jorge Garcia targeted and systematically ripped off more than a hundred elderly victims without a second thought. These types of crimes will not be tolerated. Justice was served today, and the FBI hopes his federal prison sentence provides some comfort and a sense of security to the victims,” said Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in North Carolina.
“Today’s admission of guilt by Mr. Garcia is an example of how the justice system will succeed in holding criminals accountable for their actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Matthew D. Line of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations. “Mr. Garcia, motivated by pure greed, not only preyed on the elderly and vulnerable, but also
cheated the entire American public by failing to pay into the tax system; as a result, he now faces a prison sentence for his crimes.”
The terms of the plea agreement call for GARCIA to serve a sentence of 84 months of imprisonment. The Court can choose to reject this disposition at sentencing, in which case the matter would go to trial. The charges in the Information carry a maximum of twenty-two years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release of not more than three years, a fine not to exceed $300,000 or not more than the gross gain or loss, and a mandatory special assessment of $150.
Sentencing is scheduled to take place on June 15, 2021 at 9:00 am in Winston-Salem Courtroom Number Four before the Honorable Loretta C. Biggs.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in coordination with the Durham Police Department, Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, Chapel Hill Police Department, Carrboro Police Department, and Cary Police Department) and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney JoAnna G. McFadden.