Student Loans – Student loan Scammer Exposes Self With Racist Death Threats, Feds Say
Virtually everyone had a difficult 2020. But chances are, one North Carolina bank employee who the feds say was targeted by a racist student-loan scammer had it much worse than you did.
Last July, the banker, a fraud analyst, called Jalon Carlos Torres to say they were closing his account. It had been flagged for unauthorized activity, she told Torres, a 43-year-old Colorado man who opened the account a month earlier in the name of his company, the Student Resolution Center LLC. The funds in the account would be held for 90 days before being returned to Torres, the banker said.
Torres did not take it well, according to an FBI arrest warrant.
“How do you feel closing someone’s account given the current situation regarding COVID-19, protests and Black Lives Matter, you must feel good about yourself, how can you sleep at night?” Torres allegedly shot back.
He demanded the bank employee’s last name. She refused to give it to him and hung up.
It could have ended there. Instead, what followed, according to multiple court filings reviewed by The Daily Beast, was an eight-month tsunami of racist death threats, Nazi and Ku Klux Klan imagery, and hardcore porn, culminating in a warrant for Torres’ arrest on cyberstalking charges.
But somehow, it gets even crazier.
When the FBI showed up at Torres’ Colorado Springs home—which is now being seized on grounds of alleged wire fraud and money laundering—they say, they discovered a years-long criminal enterprise targeting people trying to renegotiate their student loans. In other words, according to the feds, a racist tantrum helped unravel a predatory financial operation preying on America’s $1.5 trillion student debt behemoth at the height of the pandemic.
In the vast scheme, Torres allegedly cold-called debtors to get them to enlist the Student Resolution Center’s services, which he claimed would “reduce or eliminate” their student loans after a few small payments. The unsuspecting clients would then sign contracts that contained personal information such as names, addresses, bank account numbers, and so forth. Torres would then print bogus checks with the victims’ account information and deposit them into various accounts he controlled, prosecutors allege.
Reached by phone, Torres’ lawyer Brian Pakett declined to comment on the allegations. Told that it seemed like a fascinating case, Pakett laughed and said, “Not for my client, it isn’t.”
Bank tellers and customer service reps being harassed and verbally abused by irate customers is nothing new. But rarely does it rise to the level of what Torres is accused of.
Two weeks after he was informed that his account had been shut down, he sent the first of a series of text messages and pictures not just to the employee but to her husband and several of their family members, according to an FBI arrest warrant filed in North Carolina federal court. Torres also allegedly called the husband’s sister and mother, saying that neither of them would “make it through the weekend.”
On July 16, the feds say, Torres sent at least six text messages to the husband from different phone numbers and area codes. One read: “PICKUP [sic] THE PHONE [N-WORD] I GOT SOMETHING YOUR [sic] GONNA WANNA HEAR!”
Court records do not indicate if the bank employee or her husband were Black, nor how Torres would have come to that conclusion.
A minute later, a second text came in, which included the couple’s home address. A minute after that, a third arrived. “FUCK U [N-WORDS],” it said. Three more texts immediately followed, with photographs of the bank employee, her husband, and various relatives of theirs. “UGLY FUCKING COUPLE,” said one, which accompanied a picture of the bank employee and her husband. “ILL [sic] FUCK THE ONE IN THE MIDDLE,” said another, which was attached to a photo of three female relatives of the bank employee’s husband. Shortly after midnight, the husband received yet another threatening text, which followed a series of pornographic images. “BLACK DICKS MATTER,” the text said. “FUCK BLACK LIVES MATTER!!” said another one sent 13 minutes later. “THESE DUMB [N-WORDS]!”
“We know where you live. We know your whole fucking family and you’re gonna be fucking dead. Just wait.”
The text messages continued, getting more and more violent. “WE COMING FOR U AND UR [N-WORD] WIFE,” said one. Some contained images of Nazi flags, Ku Klux Klan imagery, and white supremacist marches, says the warrant.
That’s when the voicemails started.
“Dumb ass [N-word], you’re fucking dead, both you and your husband, you like to fucking play games, well guess what you fucked with the wrong one,” Torres allegedly said in one. “We’re coming for you dumb-ass [N-words]. Just remember that. We know where you live. We know your whole fucking family and you’re gonna be fucking dead. Just wait. You like to fuck around. We’ll fuck around just back with you bitch.”
Five minutes later, another: “Yes, your whore of a wife, we’re after her. She’s going to be one dead fucking [N-word]. You guys like to play fucking games, well game on fucking [N-words]. We’re coming for you (laughter). [She] is dead.”
At this point, the bank hired off-duty law enforcement officers to protect the couple’s home. Still, the threats continued.
In all, the bank employee, her husband, and numerous family members were contacted by Torres some 210 times, according to the feds. He allegedly used a “spoofing” service to make it appear as if they had all come from someone else—but got sloppy. At least one of the calls came from a number Torres had used to phone the bank in the past, during which he had identified himself by name to the representative on the other end of the line.
‘I JUST WANT MY MONEY BACK’
The FBI showed up at Torres’ house in Colorado Springs on March 11, to arrest him on charges of cyberstalking and interstate threats. When they got inside, agents found a check printer, a telephone voice changer, check stock, bank records from multiple institutions, a telephone script, multiple hard drives, and ID cards not associated with anyone living in the house, according to an FBI seizure warrant filed in the case.
Torres wasn’t there, but his girlfriend was. She said she had been in a relationship with Torres for 13 years and told the FBI that he “helped people fill out documentation for student loans,” for which she believed he earned roughly $50,000 a year.
The house was in Torres’ father’s name, the woman explained, because he is ex-military and qualified for a discount on the property. Over the past six months, she said she had deposited batches of checks weekly for Torres at the Navy Federal Credit Union and Wells Fargo, ranging in total from about $9,000 to $15,000.
In one text message seen by the FBI, Torres wrote to her, “From now on if you can please remember to check all check batches that I give to you before depositing into the bank. Do not let me deposit checks that are from the same bank. I’ll be working so much that I won’t be paying attention to that and it would be very nice if you can just remember to check the batch and make sure we’re not depositing checks into the same bank.”
The woman, identified in court filings as Lisa Ritter, has not been charged with any crime. However, in addition to allegedly helping Torres make his deposits seem less suspicious, the feds say, Ritter also held an ownership stake in the Student Resolution Center. The Daily Beast’s efforts to contact Ritter were unsuccessful.
Based on what they found at the home, agents launched a new investigation into Torres’ business. An open-source internet search turned up a long history of complaints from people who said they had been duped by Torres and the Student Resolution Center.
The financial burden of student loans can stretch for years, even decades, affecting borrowers well into their sixties and beyond. Naturally, people are eager to reduce their obligations in any way they can.
“They are still taking money [from] my account which should have been done in March and here it is Aug. They can not be reached. I just want my money back.”
And that creates lucrative opportunities for scam artists.
“This company is taking money out of my account and can not br [sic] reached I signed a agreement dumb of me,” said an August 2019 complaint posted to the Better Business Bureau website. “They are still taking money [from] my account which should have been done in March and here it is Aug. They can not be reached. I just want my money back.”
Agents identified other victims of the alleged fraud scheme, based on personal information printed on checks they found in Torres’ home. Some said they were contacted by a cold caller who claimed to be working on behalf of a government program to help pay off student loans.
“The caller had personal details of their student loan information, and the victims believed the caller was legitimate,” read a government filing seeking to seize Torres’ house. “Several victims said they were told if they made 3 payments, that they would not have to make student loan payments for the rest of the year. Other victims never authorized any payments, or had any awareness that money was being withdrawn from their accounts.”
One victim named in the filing as “T.C.” showed agents a bank statement indicating regular payments of $299.99 from her account spanning nearly two years for a total of $7,500. They told investigators that they had never signed up for Torres’ service, and in fact hadn’t even heard of him.
“T.C. never authorized any of these payments, and was not familiar with Mr. Torres, SRC LLC, or the Student Resolution Center,” a forfeiture complaint says. “T.C. does have student loans and had contacted her student loan company; however, the loan balance was never reduced over the past year.”
Several elderly victims told investigators they had “no knowledge of SRC LLC, or checks being written on their behalf.” They described receiving a phone call “from an individual who was very convincing and told them he could reduce their student loans.”
THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP
Investigators dug into Torres’ finances and found that over the past few years, “multiple” bank accounts in the name of SRC LLC had been closed due to suspicious activity, including at TD Bank, Integrity Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America. Specifically, the forfeiture complaint says, the accounts were shut down “due to a high rate of chargebacks, which is when the bank demands the account holder make good on the loss on a fraudulent or disputed transaction.”
In one example, an SRC LLC account at TD Bank received 1,696 electronic check deposits between April 25, 2019, and November 14, 2019, totaling $388,834. Of these 1,696 deposits, 583 were refunded and returned after complaints of fraud, after which TD Bank closed the account. In another, an SRC LLC account Torres opened in June 2020 at Integrity Bank & Trust (IBT) was shut down eight months later, following numerous chargebacks and a forgery complaint.
“IBT believed SRC LLC was creating checks with the information provided by ‘clients’ and then depositing forged checks through mobile deposit,” the seizure warrant states. “IBT closed the account on January 13, 2021.”
In all, the feds obtained seizure warrants for 13 accounts linked to Torres at seven financial institutions. Although Torres’ home is being seized for what the feds say are wire fraud and money laundering violations, his lawyer said he had not been hit with charges for either crime as of April 2.
Torres—who was in the middle of renovating his basement, according to a local building permit—was arrested in Denver on March 12 and indicted on March 16. He is being prosecuted in North Carolina federal court.
Whether he might still be out there—able to continue allegedly preying on student debtors—if not for what the feds described as a racist meltdown on a banker is impossible to say.
Student Loans – Student loan Scammer Exposes Self With Racist Death Threats, Feds Say
Tags: Student Loans