After scamming elderly victims out of thousands of dollars, a New York man will spend more than three years in prison as the price for his scam.
Michael Pizarro, 38, called victims and told them that they had qualified for a government grant, but it could only be accessed by paying an up-front refundable application fee, according to federal prosecutors.
The grants did not exist, and none of the victims had been approved for a grant.
Many of Pizarro’s victims were over 70 years old. In total, he scammed victims out of about $270,000.
Pizarro worked under the name "Eric Miller" and said he was working for a company called National Grants during the calls, according to federal prosecutors.
In April 2018, Pizarro was charged in the New York Supreme Court in connection with these crimes, which occurred from October 2015 to January 2017. He pled guilty to his charges in 2018.
He was arrested again on May 2, 2019, this time on federal charges, for the scheme. While he was released on bail, he continued to seek contact information for new victims for his scheme, according to prosecutors.
This week, a federal judge sentenced Pizarro to 40 months in prison for the scam.
U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a release announcing Pizarro's sentence that: “Michael Pizarro promised government grants to his victims under the condition they pay an up-front application fee. Regretfully, Pizarro’s victims, many of whom were over 70 years old, eventually discovered that they had fallen prey to a serial fraudster – there were no government grants, and they would not be receiving any funds. Michael Pizarro has now been sentenced to time in federal prison for his brazen fraud.”
In addition to his 40-month jail sentence, Pizarro was sentenced to three years of supervised release. He must also pay forfeiture and restitution in the amount of $278,853.37.