The Sussex County Grand Jury indicted a Sussex County resident June 10 with extortion and theft against members of the state’s Hispanic community.
Delaware State Police previously arrested Jose Oyola, 47, of Greenwood April 18 charging him with six felony charges, including one count of extortion and five counts of theft. Oyola has been out on $22,500 unsecured bond.
During the 2010 Hispanic Festival in Millsboro, members of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit received reports that Oyola had targeted members of the Hispanic community, said Jason Miller, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office. As staff investigated the reports, he said, they learned that Delaware State Police had initiated its own criminal investigation after receiving similar complaints.
The two agencies worked 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 identified, he said.
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. 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, Miller said.
The indictment states 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. As early as 2004, Oyola solicited money from multiple victims under a series of false pretenses, Miller said.
“Protecting children, seniors, and vulnerable residents is our highest calling as law enforcers,” Attorney General Beau Biden said. “The charges contained in this indictment allege the targeting of some of our most vulnerable residents for pure personal profit. It’s wrong. It’s deeply troubling.”
Oyola’s solicitations took the form of several schemes, according to the indictment:
• He 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. In fact, because many of his victims were undocumented immigrants, they were not entitled to obtain work visas or legal residency under federal law.
• He 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, and 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.
• 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 victims to Oyola ranged from less than $100 to more than $5,000.
According to the investigation, 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 from the ESL program who confronted him.
Moreover, the investigation revealed that Oyola backed up this pattern of intimidation with action; after he allegedly found out that one victim had made a complaint, investigators learned that information about the victim’s immigration status was sent to her employer, causing her to be terminated from the position, Miller said.
Biden recognized Chief Special Investigator Jose Ortiz from the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and Deputy Attorney General Kevin Carroll for their work on this case, and Lieutenant Marshall Craft from the Delaware State Police for leading the investigation. He also thanked the leaders in the Sussex County Hispanic community for their invaluable support in reaching out to members of the community, building trust with victims that do not speak English, and for their hospitality in providing interview locations where victims felt secure and safe.
Biden called for members of the community who may have additional information to provide about this case to contact our Consumer Protection Unit at 1-800-220-5424 or Master Cpl. George Camacho at the Delaware State Police at 302-856-5850, Ext. 324.
The Delaware Department of Justice reminds the public that an indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a jury trial at which the state bears the burden of proving each charge beyond a reasonable doubt.