District Court Permanently Enjoins Two Individuals and One Company Responsible for a Florida-Based Mail Fraud Scheme
A federal court in Florida entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against two individuals and one corporation preventing them from operating an alleged mail-fraud scheme, the Department of Justice announced today.
The permanent injunction signed by United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez of the Southern District of Florida arises from a complaint filed in February 2018. That complaint alleged that Art Masters LLC, which does business as Palm Beach Liquidation Gallery, and its principal Eugene Marotta, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and William Clutter, who does business as Edge Graphics, of North Las Vegas, Nevada, mailed fraudulent solicitations styled as personalized notifications that the recipient won a large package of cash and prizes worth more than $350,000, but needed to pay a fee of $161.25 to claim the package.
According to the complaint, victims who sent the fee received no prize. Instead, defendants mailed them a list of publicly-advertised sweepstakes and an ink-jet printed reproduction of an artwork. The United States alleged that in the eighteen months the scheme operated, defendants mailed more than 150,000 fraudulent solicitations and victims lost more than one million dollars.
“The Department of Justice will pursue those who defraud Americans through false promises and fraudulent schemes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Schemes like this often target the elderly and vulnerable, and shutting them down remains a top priority for the Department.”
“Individuals who prey upon the most vulnerable members of our society, including the elderly, will be held accountable,” said United States Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg for the Southern District of Florida. “Fraud schemes will not be tolerated. Our Office will continue to protect consumers through both civil and criminal prosecutions. We remind everyone to be wary and exercise extreme caution when they receive a call or notification of an award offer that is just ‘too good to be true.’ Legitimate operators will not demand payment for prizes.”
"The Postal Inspection Service is dedicated to protecting our customers and their hard-earned money from fraudsters,” said Assistant Inspector in Charge Nicole Davis for the US Postal Inspection Service, Criminal Investigations Group. “We strongly urge people to do their research before responding to solicitations like the ones in this case and remember "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
The consent decree permanently enjoins the defendants from mailing solicitations promising delivery of a prize, offering for sale information on sweepstakes or lotteries, or making other deceptive representations. Defendants are also precluded from creating, renting, or selling lists of victims who responded to defendants’ mailings. Finally, the consent decree authorizes the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to return any victim money or personal checks sent to the defendants and detained by the Postal Inspection Service.
This matter was handled by Trial Attorney Jacqueline Blaesi-Freed of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney James A. Weinkle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, in connection with the United States Postal Inspection Service.