An Arizona man made more than a half-million dollars scamming elderly magazine subscribers across the country, threatening to have them arrested if they did not pay huge fees and fines.
Raheem Oliver, 38, pleaded guilty in Alexandria federal court Monday to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
One person who fell prey to the scam was an 84-year-old Painter, Va., resident identified in court documents as R.B. He was called by Oliver more than 100 times between May 2014 and October 2015 and sent at least three checks to addresses in Arizona.
According to court documents, from about 2013 until a fall 2016 raid on his swanky Phoenix rental home, Oliver stole from about 250 people and made at least $548,000.
Oliver or an associate would call victims and offer to renew their magazine subscriptions by phone, according to the court papers. He would then bill their accounts two or three times without renewing the subscriptions.
People who seemed vulnerable, particularly the elderly, were targeted for a secondary scam, Oliver admitted in court filings. Oliver would call individuals and tell them that they needed to pay thousands of dollars in renewal fees, fines, attorney’s fees and court costs for purportedly overdue subscription balances.
He warned victims — falsely — that if they failed to send the money they could face legal action, including arrest.
U.S. Postal Service inspectors and FBI agents raided the Phoenix home where Oliver was living over a year ago, in November 2016. He pleaded guilty Monday in what is an ongoing investigation, officials said.
“This guy is bad. He is a bad man,” said Mark Pyper, the owner of the home and a Phoenix-area attorney. He said in an interview Monday that he began renting his large house to Oliver’s family in April 2016.
“He moved in and was kind of a deadbeat from the get-go,” Pyper said of Oliver. He said his tenant, a tall and athletic man who drove a black Mercedes-Benz, was often behind on his rent. When Pyper pressed him in August 2016, he said Oliver promised a payment the next day.
“Sure enough, in my mailbox I received a FedEx from a gentleman in Kentucky who had sent me a personal check for over $8,000,” Pyper said Monday.
The check cleared, but Pyper found the situation odd and made a copy. Pyper reached the man in Kentucky and learned he was an 88-year-old farmer who thought he was paying half of what he owed for overdue magazine subscription fees to avoid being taken to court.
Pyper did some digging and told the farmer in Kentucky there was no court hearing. The attorney then went to the FBI, which referred him to the postal inspector. He was told that officials had a case open on Oliver and were planning a raid of the rental house.
“They said, ‘If you give us the key code we won’t have to rip out your 18-foot wrought iron front door,’ ” Pyper recalled.
Pyper was happy to comply.
Pyper ultimately had him evicted and is suing his former tenant over unpaid rent.
Oliver faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced June 22. Court files show Oliver spent six years in Arizona state prison for robbery, after what the East Valley Tribune described as a jewelry store heist.
As part of his plea, he has agreed to forfeit the money he made from the scam.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said a victim, identified in court papers only as R.B., was a 94-year-old Alexandria, Va., resident. R.B. is an 84-year-old resident of Painter, Va. Prosecutors said another victim in the case is a 94-year-old Alexandria man.