By day, Paulette Padilla is a nurse practitioner, using Instagram to proudly hawk beauty procedures: Botox and filler injections at the Nu You Wellness Center in Coral Gables.
But investigators say Padilla was also part of a growing scam that targets elderly victims, conning them into mailing or wiring large amounts of money.
Padilla, 31, was arrested this week and charged with organized scheme to defraud. She was also charged with drug trafficking after detectives say they found 170 pounds of marijuana stuffed in suitcases hidden in the bathroom of her Kendall apartment.
She remained jailed on Wednesday evening. The court docket does not list a defense attorney.
The Nu You center’s website says that Padilla graduated with a nursing degree from Barry University and she specialized in “aesthetics and anti-aging medicine.”
“She is best known for her gentle touch and precision when it comes to Botox and Fillers. Her organic and kind personality carries over to her natural approach to her work,” the site says.
Scam phone calls targeting the elderly have been a persistent problem in South Florida and the United States in recent years.
Earlier this year, police say, federal agents shot and killed an armed man in Coral Gables who was being investigated as part of a similar ring. His cohort, who was wounded in the incident, was charged federally with scamming the elderly.
In Padilla’s case, investigators say they’ve identified at least two elderly victims.
One was an 86-year-old Chicago woman who wired $20,000 after a caller frantically told her that a family member had been involved in a traffic accident. The woman’s family later reported the fraud to Bank of America, which assigned a financial investigator to the case.
The $20,000 was wired to Padilla’s bank account, according to an arrest report by Miami-Dade Schools Detective John Messenger, who is part of a federal task force investigating crimes against the elderly.
When reached by phone, Padilla told the bank investigator that the elderly woman was her friend and she’d sent her to $20,000 as “payment for a Super Bowl party that Padilla was organizing,” the report said. When the investigator told her the wire was fraudulent, Padilla allegedly responded: “How is that my problem?”
According to the arrest report, investigators traced her sending thousands of dollars to her mother and an “associate,” as well as withdrawing cash from a Bank of America ATM. One withdrawal was captured by bank video surveillance as Padilla drove a silver Mercedes Benz through a drive-thru ATM, police said.
On Padilla’s phone, investigators found evidence that a second elderly woman, from New York, sent $22,000 in the mail to the ring. The victim was told that a “family member had been involved in an accident,” police said.