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13 charged after investigation into 'grandparent scam' targeting seniors in the U.S.

A Quebec provincial police investigation into an alleged "grandparents" scam operation that targeted mostly American seniors has resulted in 13 people from the Montreal area being charged.

The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) made the arrests in Montreal, Laval, Saint-Laurent, Kirkland and Chambly on Wednesday and said the operation had ties to organized crime.

In this alleged scam, the fraudsters contact the victims, often an elderly person, feigning an emergency.

The SQ states they usually pretend to be a family member, such as a grandchild, a lawyer or a law enforcement official calling for payment, most likely to make bail.

The police operation involved more than 50 officers from the SQ, Montreal police (SPVM), Laval police (SPL) and the Régie intermunicipale de police Richelieu-Saint-Laurent.

The Baltimore office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States was also involved, as well as several United States Attorney's Offices and other American police forces and surveillance agencies.

Most of the accused are in their late 20s and mid 30s, while one is 43, according to court records. They face charges including fraud over $5,000, conspiracy, and commission of an offence for a criminal organization in relation to offences that allegedly took place between May 2019 and March 2021.

A spokesperson for the FBI Baltimore Field Office said U.S. authorities believe the scam stole more than US$2.5 million from 85 elderly victims.

Five residents of Florida and Maryland have already been convicted of charges related to their roles in the conspiracy, the spokesperson said in an email to The Canadian Press.

"Conspirators targeted elderly victims throughout the United States, calling and posing as a police officer, lawyer, or other individual, falsely telling the victim that a relative, typically the victim’s grandchild, had been incarcerated in connection with a car accident or traffic stop involving a crime, and needed money," the district attorney's office said.

According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, grandparent scams are on the rise in Canada.

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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