Canadian National Who Conned U.S. Senior Citizens out of Money via ‘Grandparent Scam’ Gets 41 months in Federal Prison

            A federal judge sentenced  Clifford Kirstein, 29, of Montreal, a Canadian telemarketer, to 41 months in federal prison for conning American senior citizens by impersonating their grandchildren over the telephone and asking for financial help to get the purportedly distressed relatives out of trouble in a foreign country. She must also repay $56,258 in restitution to eight victims.

            Kirstein pleaded guilty in November to one count of wire fraud after being extradited from Canada in January 2019. Kirstein admitted in court that he and his co-conspirators contacted their elderly U.S. victims by telephone and fraudulently induced victims to send money by pretending to be a grandchild or some other relative who was in distress in a foreign nation. As a result, frightened victims wired money as instructed to help their loved ones. The victims were directed to wire money via Western Union or MoneyGram, listing the grandchild, other relative or the name of the purported lawyer as the intended recipient.  When the victims wired the money, Kirstein and his co-conspirators converted the funds to cash as quickly as possible before the victims could discover that they had been fooled. On some occasions, Kirstein or his co-schemers called the victims again to solicit more money, falsely claiming that additional funds were needed by the grandchild or other relative to fully resolve the problem.

            Canadian law enforcement executed a search warrant in 2012 at a Montreal apartment, where they found a fully operating telemarketing boiler room, a large amount of cash and a money counting machine. The individual rooms of the apartment were strewn with lead sheets, burner phones and calling cards, and the bathroom had been set up as an office with a chair in front of the sink. Kirstein admitted in his plea agreement that in February 2012 one of the scheme’s targeted victims was a Camarillo resident.

A federal grand jury charged Kirstein and four other Canadian nationals in July 2013 in a 25-count indictment alleging wire fraud. Co-conspirators Agiyl Kamaldin, 32, Mark El Bernachawy, 34, and Kelen Magael Buchan, 27, all of the Montreal area, pleaded guilty to criminal charges and received prison sentences after being extradited along with Kirstein in January 2019

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