Florida woman sentenced for her role in telephone scam

Date: 
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Office Affiliation: 

From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia:

ATLANTA - Karla Suzanne Spiker has been sentenced for her role laundering money for an international telephone scam.  Spiker began laundering money after having been a victim of a mortgage scam, which is believed to have originated in India.

“These scams are a nationwide problem, and they typically target the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine.  “Most of these scams originate outside the United States, and their success depends on individuals, like Spiker, who agree to launder the money.  Spiker made a choice to engage in this conduct and could have walked away at any time, but she chose not to.”

“Telephone scams that seek to prey on us are a seemingly unrelenting nuisance,” said U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Steven Baisel. “Catching people who help to perpetrate these criminal schemes helps us all.” 

“We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to combat Social Security-related telephone scams by targeting their facilitators in the United States,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “We will continue to aggressively pursue those who make these calls to profit by deceiving and harming American consumers. I want to thank the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their unwavering support of our efforts.”

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented in court: Spiker worked as a money launderer for scammers, who are believed to be located in India.  Typically, the scammers send out robocalls claiming to have an urgent message for the victim and, when the victim, mostly elderly or otherwise vulnerable, returns the call, the scammers threaten or cajole the victims into sending money.  

The scammers that Spiker worked for operated two different scams.  In the first, they told victims that their Social Security number (SSN) was used in a crime and they would be arrested, or their SSN canceled, unless they paid money.  In the second, the scammers offered the victims a reduced mortgage payment if they first paid a fee. Once the victim agreed to make the payment, the scammers directed them to wire money or send money orders to individuals, like Spiker, in the United States who worked for the scammers.

Since at least June 2019 until July 2020, Spiker received money from victims all over the United States. She used various fake IDs to pick up money wired to an Orlando-area store.  Victims also mailed money orders to her directly.  Spiker was introduced to the scam when she was a victim of the mortgage scam. 

After paying money to reduce her mortgage payment, and realizing that she had been scammed, she was recruited to receive money from other victims. 

In July 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant on Spiker's residence.  Inside, they found 52 fake IDs each bearing her image with a different name.  Spiker admitted that she had been working with the scammers since June 2019, that she picked up approximately five or six money transactions each week, and that she received a percentage from each cash pick up.  Spiker communicated with the scammers by text message or email and had never met anyone in person.  Spiker admitted that she picked up over $300,000 in scam funds.

Karla Suzanne Spiker, 47, of Orlando, Florida,  was sentenced to one year, three months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $114,265.80  Spiker has been convicted on these charges on October 30, 2020, after she pleaded guilty.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and Social Security Administration - Office of the Inspector General.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane C. Schulman prosecuted the case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is part of the Department of Justice Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. The Strike Force focuses on investigating and prosecuting defendants associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors.  These include romance scams, phone scams, mass-mailing fraud schemes, and tech-support fraud schemes.  For further information on these scams, see https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/senior-scam-alert.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.