WASHINGTON - A room manager of a telemarketing call center operating out of Costa Rica was sentenced today to 11 years in prison for his participation in a massive, Costa Rica-based, telemarketing fraud scheme that targeted thousands of U.S. residents, resulting in victim losses of more than $10 million, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division announced today.
Juan Luis Llamas, 33, of Yuba City, Calif., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney of the Western District of North Carolina. Judge Whitney also ordered Llamas to pay restitution of $4.2 million jointly and severally with co-conspirators.
Llamas is the 30th defendant to be sentenced on conspiracy and wire fraud charges from a series of indictments returned by federal grand juries in Charlotte and Asheville, N.C. Llamas pleaded guilty on Nov. 26, 2007.
The indictments in this case charge the defendants with conspiring to defraud U.S. residents, most over the age of 55, out of millions of dollars by deceiving them into believing they had won a large monetary prize in a “sweepstakes contest.” According to the indictments, calls to victims were made from Costa Rica using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which utilized computers to make telephone calls over the Internet, disguising the originating location of the calls. Victims were informed that the callers were purportedly from the “Sweepstakes Security Commission” and that to receive their "prize," they were to wire thousands of dollars to Costa Rica for a purported “refundable insurance fee.” According to the indictment, as long as the victims continued to pay, the co-conspirators continued to solicit them to send more money.
To date, 33 defendants have pleaded guilty and three have been convicted by jury trials. On Sept. 24, 2008, telemarketing room owner Giuseppe Pileggi, 48, of Montreal, Canada, was sentenced to 50 years in prison, and ordered to forfeit $8.3 million dollars.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation is being conducted by a multi-agency task force comprised of law enforcement authorities from Costa-Rica, the U.S. Postal Investigative Service, the Departments of Justice and Commerce, along with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the Department of Homeland Security.
The case was prosecuted by Fraud Section Senior Trial Attorney Peter B. Loewenberg and Senior Litigation Counsel Patrick M. Donley, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Oneika Duncan and Legal Administrative Specialist Pamela Washington.