WASHINGTON COUNTY (KFSM) – A federal fugitive is behind bars in Washington County after authorities said she defrauded illegal immigrants out of more than $100,000 while promising to help them become American citizens.
Wendy Espinoza-Reconco, 31, was arrested July 18 and is being held in the Washington County Detention Center for federal authorities, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. A warrant was issued in federal court for Espinoza’s arrest the previous day, court documents show.
The suspect faces one count of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. Court documents state Espinoza contacted several families between 2011 and 2014, pretending to be in contact with a lawyer who could help them with the naturalization process to become American citizens. Several victims were from Springdale, court records show.
Espinoza obtained personal documents and money, including mail and wire transfers, from the victims in exchange for the promised services, according to a complain issued in federal court July 17.
One family lost $49,264 in the fraud scheme, with another losing $35,481, according to court documents. The documents state another family paid Espinoza $16,229 for unfulfilled services. Several other individuals lost hundreds of dollars.
“Espinoza routinely relied on strong spiritual influence in order to instill a false sense of security, which results in victims continuously depositing funds (in the suspect’s Bank of America account),” the federal complaint states.
Bank records show once deposits were made by victims into the suspect’s account, the money was immediately withdrawn, the complaint states.
Victims told federal investigators Espinoza had two accomplices in the scheme—a man calling himself “Jessie Gallo” and another who went by the name “Christopher Yang”. The federal complaint does not mention whether the names are aliases or whether the accomplices have also been detained in the case.