Following local and federal investigations, a Southampton couple has been indicted in connection with an elder fraud scheme that targeted thousands of victims nationwide "to the tune of more than $1 million" since 2013, authorities said Thursday.
John Ficarra, 53, and his wife, Mara Ficarra, 54, were arrested Thursday morning on an federal indictment charging them with conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to Eastern District U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue.
“The defendants preyed upon some of the most vulnerable members of our community, stealing their personal information and defrauding financial institutions,” Donoghue said in a news release.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Southampton Town police investigated the alleged scheme.
The couple owned several companies, including Remington Biographies Inc., and Remington Bookkeepers Inc., and claimed to publish reference publications with biographical information about people across the country, the indictment stated. The Ficarras allegedly mailed letters and pamphlets to victims, most of whom are elderly, that indicated their biography would be included in a publication.
“The Remington Registry of Outstanding Professionals is more than a website, more than a book, more than a Biographical index and certainly more than a who’s who," the pamphlet stated. "It is the ultimate expression of achievements, hardships, and dedication that professionals have made in their lives and careers."
The letters sought a $14 check for shipping and handling, authorities said. The Ficarras allegedly used the checks' routing and bank information to produce fake checks for larger dollar amounts.
"Once the checks cleared, they withdrew the funds to the tune of more than $1 million," said Philip Bartlett, inspector-in-charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, in the release.
Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said the department's detective division received information regarding the couple about a year ago. Six months into their investigation, the department learned of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's probe.
"We combined our investigation with theirs," Skrynecki said in a telephone interview.
Skrynecki said his detectives received complaints that some of the promised publications were never released, which indicated to police that the couple might be running a scam.
"We realized they were conducting this activity beyond the local area," he said, noting that the department also participated in Thursday's search warrant at the couple's Southampton home, which could be subject to forfeiture if they are convicted.
Mara Ficarra was to be arraigned Thursday afternoon before Magistrate Judge Arlene Lindsay. John Ficarra likely will be arraigned at the hospital, where he was taken for undisclosed reasons. Information about their arraignments was not immediately available in online court records.
It was not clear if they had retained legal counsel.