Paul Belton, a resident of Duncanville, has been found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison for his involvement in a fraudulent scheme that targeted elderly individuals using the "Loved One in Distress" scam. The sentence was handed down on Monday, capping a legal battle that exposed the extent of his criminal activities.
Belton was convicted on charges of Money Laundering involving amounts exceeding $300,000 and Theft ranging from $30,000 to $150,000 targeting elderly victims. The court found that Belton and his associates exploited the vulnerability of senior citizens by impersonating their relatives in distress and convincing them to hand over significant sums of money under false pretenses.
The scheme involved a two-step ruse where the perpetrators would initially impersonate a distressed family member, often a grandson or nephew, and request financial assistance. The call would then be transferred to a supposed attorney who further pressured the elderly victims into believing that their loved ones needed bail money or legal representation. The victims were instructed to pay the demanded amounts in cash, which would be collected by a private courier.
Investigations into the case revealed that Belton, acting either alone or in collaboration with others, was responsible for collecting the ill-gotten funds from the elderly victims. In total, four elderly individuals fell prey to this elaborate scheme, with one victim residing in Duncanville, TX, and the remaining three located in California. The collective losses suffered by the victims amounted to approximately $115,000.
During the course of the investigation, an unexpected turn occurred when Belton unwittingly handed over $100,000 to undercover DEA agents who were part of a money laundering task force. This additional evidence further underscored the extent of his criminal activities.
A search of Belton's seized phone yielded compelling evidence against him, including more than 30 videos depicting him unsealing packages addressed to bondsmen and meticulously counting substantial amounts of cash, totaling $368,000. The prosecution also presented a testimony from a federally indicted co-conspirator, who shed light on the intricate details of the fraudulent scheme. Shockingly, even while out on bond awaiting trial, Belton continued his participation in the illegal activities.