A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City returned an unsealed indictment yesterday, charging a Utah man with wire fraud, making a false statement, impersonating a federal officer, and aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, from 2018 to 2020, Santiago Garcia Gutierrez allegedly falsely promised his victim that he could acquire at discounted prices exotic cars, planes, and vessels that the U.S. government had seized through forfeiture.
Garcia allegedly promised the victim that he would transfer these luxury assets to them in exchange for earnest money payments. Garcia allegedly assured the victim that those payments would be paid to the U.S. government, but instead, he kept the money.
To lure his victim into participating in the scheme, on numerous occasions, Garcia allegedly contacted the victim via text message from multiple phone numbers and falsely claimed to be a confidential government informant, a federal agent, or Garcia’s own attorney.
The indictment alleges that Garcia furthered his scheme by lying to an IRS special agent.
In total, Garcia allegedly defrauded the victim of approximately $2.8 million.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years for wire fraud, five years for making a false statement, three years for impersonating a federal officer, and two years for aggravated identity theft.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins for the District of Utah made the announcement.
IRS Criminal Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General and the Environmental Protection Agency are investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Richard M. Rolwing and Erika V. Suhr of the Justice Department’s Tax Division are prosecuting the case.