Six Defendants Charged In Manhattan Federal Court For Jamaican Lottery Telemarketing Fraud Scheme Targeting Elderly U.S. Citizens
Alleged Scheme Obtained at Least $400,000 from Elderly Victims
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, the Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced that NADEISHA BLAKE, RASHINA WATSON, CRYSTAL MOSS, KIMONA PETERKIN, MELISSA BLAKE, and SOPHIA BLAKE were arrested today for allegedly engaging in a lottery telemarketing fraud scheme that obtained over $400,000 from elderly victims in the United States between 2010 and March 2013. Five of the defendants – NADEISHA BLAKE, MOSS, PETERKIN, MELISSA BLAKE, and SOPHIA BLAKE – were arrested this morning in New York, and will be presented and arraigned in Manhattan federal court this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck. WATSON, the sixth defendant, was arrested this morning in Bladensburg, Maryland, and will be presented in federal court in Maryland this afternoon.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, the defendants sought out and preyed on the elderly through their lottery telemarking scam. This Office will aggressively pursue and prosecute fraudsters who seek to exploit our citizens for financial gain. Thanks to the cooperative efforts of law enforcement, both here and abroad, this alleged international fraud scheme was uncovered, and the defendants will now be made to face justice. Citizens should be wary of these types of fraudulent lottery schemes that sound too good to be true.”
USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said: “Foreign lotteries prey upon trusting individuals who believe they have won a large prize. Not only are they illegal, but those who choose to participate run the risk of criminal charges for their involvement, like these alleged defendants. Postal Inspectors will bring to justice anyone who uses the mail for their illegal enterprise, both foreign and domestic.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
The defendants participated in a fraudulent scheme in which dozens of elderly victims in the United States were informed that they had won substantial cash prizes in an international sweepstakes lottery, but that in order to claim these prizes, they first needed to pay tens of thousand dollars in fees and taxes. In fact, there was no sweepstakes lottery and the victims never received any cash prize, even after victims sent cash and checks totaling up to $100,000 each to the defendants and their co-conspirators in Jamaica.
As part of this scheme to defraud, the defendants worked with several co-conspirators in Jamaica. The Jamaican co-conspirators bought lists containing information about elderly Americans, called them, and informed them that they had won the lottery. All the victims had to do to get their prizes, according to the Jamaican co-conspirators, was to send payments for certain “taxes” and “fees.” The victims were then instructed to send the money to the defendants by wire transfer or U.S. mail. Victims who sent money were often contacted again by the Jamaican co-conspirators and instructed to send additional money in order to claim their prizes. After receiving money from the victims, the defendants transmitted the funds to their Jamaican co-conspirators either through wire transfers or by carrying cash to Jamaica.
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All of the defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one substantive count of mail fraud, and one substantive count of wire fraud, which each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. A chart containing each defendant’s age and residence information is attached. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero.
The investigation into the lottery telemarketing fraud scheme is being conducted in New York by the USPIS, in cooperation with the Jamaican Constabulary Force (“JCF”). Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the USPIS and the JCF, and expressed his gratitude to the Office of International Affairs, United States Department of Justice Criminal Division, and the Consumer Protection Branch of the United States Department of Justice Civil Division for their cooperation in the investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Megan Gaffney and Tatiana R. Martins are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty