Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Defendant Pleads Guilty In Multi-Million Dollar Prize Notification Scam Affecting Elderly Victims

A Las Vegas area resident charged with perpetrating a prize-notification scheme that bilked victims out of more than $10 million pleaded guilty today, the Department of Justice announced.

Andrea Burrow, 50, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud based on her participation in a scheme that preyed upon hundreds of thousands of victims, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, with fraudulent prize notices.  The notices led victims to believe that they could claim a large cash prize if they paid a small fee.  This was false; victims who paid the fees did not receive anything of value. 

Burrow is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in connection with the scheme. Three other individuals – Patti Kern, Edgar Del Rio, and Sean O’Connor – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in 2019.  Following these guilty pleas, Burrow was indicted in November 2019 along with five others: Mario Castro, Jose Salud Castro, Salvador Castro, Miguel Castro, and Jose Luis Mendez.  The trial of the remaining five defendants is currently scheduled for Sept. 28, 2020.

“The defendant and her co-conspirators exploited the elderly and vulnerable by bombarding them repeatedly with false promises of wealth,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan P. Davis of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the Department’s continuing commitment to bring to justice those who prey upon the elderly.” 

The scheme operated from 2010 to February 2018, when postal inspectors executed multiple search warrants and the Department of Justice obtained a court order shutting down the fraudulent mail operation.  The indictment and other court filings alleged that Mario Castro, Jose Salud Castro, Salvador Castro, Miguel Castro, Jose Luis Mendez, and Edgar Del Rio worked at the printing and mailing businesses that sent the fraudulent mail, and each shared the profits from the fraudulent prize notices with Patti Kern, who helped manage the scheme.  Sean O’ Connor provided laser printing and data processing services to the scheme. Burrow opened victim return mail, sorted cash and other payments, and entered data from the victims’ responses into a database that the scheme used to target past victims with more fraudulent mail, according to the indictment.

“Postal Inspectors are dedicated to the pursuit of protecting those who can’t protect themselves.  This guilty plea should be a warning to all individuals who use promises of large cash prizes to build their own wealth the U.S. Postal Inspection Service will find you and you will be held accountable,” said Inspector in Charge Delany De Leon-Colon, Criminal Investigations Group

Today’s plea took place before U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro. When sentenced, Burrow faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Timothy Finley and Daniel Zytnick of the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson of the District of Nevada.

An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury and is not evidence of guilt.  Defendants should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, the Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors.  In January 2020, the department designated “Preventing and Disrupting Transnational Elder Fraud” as an Agency Priority Goal, one of its top four priorities.  Later, in March 2020, the department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 400 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep.  The department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act. 

The department’s extensive and broad-based efforts to combat elder fraud seek to halt the billions of dollars senior lose to fraud schemes, including those perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations.  The best method for prevention, however, is by sharing information about the various types of elder fraud schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors, and other seniors who can use that information to protect themselves.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps.  Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis.  Reporting is the first step.  Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses.  The hotline is staffed 7 days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. eastern time. English, Spanish and other languages are available.

For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.  For more information about the U.S. Attorneys’ District of Nevada Office, visit their website at www.justice.gov/usao-nv.

###

Topic(s): 
Elder Justice
Consumer Protection
Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
20-772
Updated August 12, 2020