UPDATE: 

Local and federal authorities arrested 18 Dubuque-area residents today, and two more face charges, for their alleged roles in an international fraud scheme targeting the elderly.

The "Dubuque cell" is linked to more than $1 million worth of fraudulent transactions, according to court documents.

In the scheme, elderly U.S. residents would be contacted, told that a loved one was incarcerated and conned into wiring money to release them from jail. Documents state the local residents would collect those wire transfers and send much of the proceeds to the Dominican Republic.

Paul Chase, 34; Morgan Cornell, 20; Tobey Hines, 33; Payton McCarville, 23; Tiffany Reynolds, 32; and Joshua Willis, 21, each face a federal charge of wire fraud, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. The release only identifies the six as being from "Dubuque or surrounding areas."

And 14 people were arrested today on state-level charges during an operation that included special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, Dubuque police officers and other federal, state and local law enforcement.

Those arrested were:

  • Jenna N. Bowman, 19, of 520 Rhomberg Ave. -- Two counts of second-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Adriana M. Flores, 20, of 3230 Getty Terrace, No. 102 -- Two counts of second-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Nicholas R. Frey, 20, of 1494 Elm St. -- Four counts of second-degree theft, two counts of third-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Austin C. Guler, 20, of 7997 N. Westbrook Drive -- One count of second-degree theft
  • Jason D. Harris, 22, of 1100 Althauser St. -- Two counts of second-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Jalisa E. Jones, 29, of 90 Main St., No. 203 -- One count of second-degree theft
  • Shawn D. Manning, 28, of 721 Bluff St. -- Three counts of second-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Ryan P. McMahon, 24, of 17684 S. John Deere Road -- Two counts of second-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Amanda L. Reeves, 19, of 1877 Jackson St. -- Three counts of second-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Shelby R. Richey, 19, of 55 Diamond St. -- Seven counts of second-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Jacob C. Schmitz, 32, of 51 Milwaukee St. -- Two counts of second-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Nicole M. Sharkey, 19, of 2225 Cherbourg Court -- One count of second-degree theft, one count of third-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • John J. Thoma, 18, of 10318 Timothy St. -- 12 counts of second-degree theft, one count of third-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct
  • Lawrence L. Williams, 32, of 17234 S. John Deere Road, No. 4 -- Four counts of second-degree theft and one count of ongoing criminal conduct

Authorities connected the recent arrests to federal charges filed earlier this year against five other area residents. 

Carlos Rodriguez, Shawn Vaassen, Michael Marcov and Stephanie Marcov each pleaded guilty to wire fraud earlier this year. Vaassen also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a sawed-off shotgun.

Cody Richey also was charged with wire fraud.

Authorities from the Dubuque Police Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security started investigating the local "cell" in April 2016.

They determined local "runners" would pick up wired transactions, for which they would receive $20 to $50, according to authorities. Drivers would get about $100 and full tanks of gas.

Multiple tri-state businesses were used to receive fraudulent transactions, according to court documents.

"Once the money was picked up, the proceeds received would then be given to a crew leader, at which time the money was sent down to the Dominican Republic where the organization was based," investigators wrote.

Authorities believe local runners collected $708,440.

"There is another estimated $305,477 worth of sent transactions that are tied to this criminal organization as well," investigators wrote. "Total estimated cash flow related to the Dubuque cell of runners sending or receiving fraudulent transactions is estimated at $1,074,306.65."

Court documents show victims in 16 states. Runners allegedly traveled to locations including Maquoketa and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Madison, Wis., to collect wire transfers.

Documents state that both Manning and Thoma admitted their involvement in the scheme.

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