Pembroke Pines Men Accused of $1 Million Fraud Scheme

One of two men arrested on Tuesday after the U.S. Secret Service searched a home in Pembroke Pines appeared in federal court on Wednesday.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office and Pembroke Pines police helped Secret Service agents carry out the search warrant near Southwest 156th Avenue and 12th Street in the Grand Palms Country Club community.

A video showed law enforcement officers with their guns drawn aimed at the house being investigated.

Local 10 News reporter Janine Stanwood reported that Willan Pupo, 36, who lives at the home, was not in court because he tested positive for COVID-19. However, his alleged partner, Joel Castillo, 38, was in court.

Prosecutors claimed that from February to July of this year, the men committed wire fraud, money laundering, and conspired to commit access device fraud.

They are accused of getting point-of-sale devices and using credit cards to move funds from bank accounts before the fraud was detected. According to a federal criminal complaint, they put nearly $1 million in fraudulent charges on the devices, linking them to fake companies connected to Pupo’s address.

On Tuesday, neighbors told Local 10’s Joseph Ojo that they heard loud bangs and law enforcement shouting, “This is your last chance to come out.” One neighbor described the SWAT scene as overwhelming in their normally safe neighborhood.

“There were loud booms to open the door, and it was scary,” one neighbor said. “We were peeking through the window and watching it all.”

The Secret Service declined to comment on the investigation. Special Agent in Charge Rafael Barros of the Miami Field Office said they cannot comment on their involvement but will disclose future actions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida.

Castillo’s bond was set at over $160,000, and his arraignment is scheduled for later this month.

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