Crime - Sacto 911

Man pleads guilty to telemarketing scam targeting senior citizens

A man from the island nation of Cape Verde, off the western coast of Africa, has pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in a telemarketing scam that targeted senior citizens in Woodland and other California communities.

Wladimir Rocha, 35, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of mail fraud in connection with a scam that tricked people into sending him money to receive cash prizes, according to a news release form the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.

Court documents indicate that the scam targeted senior citizens who believed the money they sent would be used to prepay taxes and fees on winnings from a sweepstakes or lottery. As part of the scam, Rocha opened different post office boxes in Virginia, where he resided, to receive the victims’ money. The scam targeted people throughout California, including residents of Woodland, Stockton, Bakersfield and Dinuba, authorities said.

Rocha is to be sentenced Dec. 3 by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller.

Joseph Nkunzi, a co-defendant in the case, pleaded guilty Sept. 2 and is to be sentenced Nov. 19.

The case resulted from an investigation by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.