Sussex County Man Indicted for Extortion, Theft - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sussex County Man Indicted for Extortion, Theft

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Jose Oyola Jose Oyola

GREENWOOD, Md.- Authorities say a Sussex County Grand Jury has indicted a Greenwood man for extortion and theft in connection with an alleged scheme targeting members of Delaware's Hispanic community.

During a press conference held Wednesday in Georgetown, Delaware Attorney General Biden said his office began receiving reports of targeting of local immigrants by 47-year-old Jose Oyola of Greenwood when consumers approached staff from the AG's Consumer Protection Unit who attended the 2010 Hispanic Festival in Millsboro. 

Biden said that as the Consumer Protection Unit began investigating those reports, staff learned that Delaware State Police had initiated their own criminal investigation after receiving similar complaints.  The two agencies began working together and made contact with leaders in the Hispanic community to identify victims and facilitate interviews. Over the next two years nearly two dozen victims were ultimately identified, Biden said.

Biden said that at the time of the investigation, Oyola was a middle school teacher for the Woodbridge School District and served as a coordinator for the English as a Second Language program sponsored by Sussex Tech Adult Education. Biden said that in these capacities, Oyola had daily contact with a large number of immigrant families from central and western Sussex County.  Victims were commonly referred to Oyola by word of mouth or met him through his teaching position or through ESL classes held at Woodbridge Middle School and the Bridgeville Head Start office, the attorney general said.

The indictment, secured from the Sussex County Grand Jury on Monday, June 10, alleges that Oyola targeted individuals from Delaware's immigrant community by using his position and his standing in the community to secure large sums of monies for services that he promised but never provided, and then threatened to have the victims deported if they did not cooperate with him. Biden said the investigation revealed that over a period of several years, dating back as early as 2004, Oyola solicited money from multiple victims under a series of false pretenses.  

According to the indictment, Oyola's solicitations took the form of several schemes:

  • The indictment alleges that Oyola promised to secure legal residency and work visas for multiple victims for fees that ranged from $1,500 to $3,000.  No work visas or residency forms were ever produced, according to the indictment, which noted that because many of Oyola's victims were undocumented immigrants, they were not entitled to obtain work visas or legal residency under federal law.
  • The indictment also alleges Oyola told multiple victims who sought to enroll in ESL classes that they first needed to pay him personally to prepare tax returns and/or to secure a federal identification number in order to be eligible for the program. Hundreds of dollars were typically charged for each tax return, according to the indictment, which noted that in some cases, Oyola collected additional money from consumers allegedly owed in back taxes.  In at least one case, Oyola reported that a tax refund paid to the consumer was a mistake and he directed the victim to turn the proceeds over to him, the indictment claims.
  • The indictment also alleges that in another scheme, Oyola allegedly collected a $1,500 fee to secure housing for a victim through Habitat for Humanity.  That housing was never provided.

Amounts paid by the victims to Oyola ranged from less than $100 to more than $5,000, according to the indictment. Investigators said that when victims questioned or confronted Oyola about his tax preparation services or the status of their residency or visa applications, he threatened to have them deported if they did not make payment or if they filed a complaint with authorities.  He also removed several of the victims who confronted him from the ESL program, according to investigators. They said the investigation also revealed that Oyola backed up this pattern of intimidation with action. After he allegedly found out that one victim had made a complaint, investigators said they discovered that information about the victim's immigration status was sent to her employer, causing her to be terminated from the position.

Delaware State Police arrested Oyola on April 18.  Monday's indictment charges Oyola with six felony charges, including one count of extortion and five counts of theft.  

Biden is asking members of the community who may have additional information to provide about this case to contact the Delaware AG's Consumer Protection Unit at 1-800-220-5424 or Master Cpl. George Camacho of the Delaware State Police at (302) 856-5850, ext. 324.

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