Florida Resident Sentenced in Connection with International Lottery Scheme That Defrauded Elderly Americans
Charmaine Anne King was sentenced today in connection with her role in a fraudulent international lottery scheme that targeted U.S. citizens, the Justice Department announced. King was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore in Miami to serve 57 months in prison and 5 years supervised release. A hearing on restitution has been scheduled for June 5, 2014. King was convicted by a federal jury in Miami on Feb. 5, 2014, of one count of conspiracy, three counts of mail fraud, and two counts of wire fraud.
King’s prosecution is part of the Department of Justice’s effort, working with federal and local law enforcement, to combat international lottery fraud schemes preying on American citizens. According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Americans have lost tens of millions of dollars to fraudulent foreign lotteries.
“The Justice Department will continue to hold criminals accountable for fraudulent lottery schemes,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This illegal conduct creates significant financial harm to people throughout the country, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute such crime, and bring those responsible to justice.”
A federal grand jury in Miami returned an indictment against King and co-conspirator Althea Angela Peart on Oct. 31, 2013. Judge Moore adopted a report and recommendation accepting Peart’s guilty plea on Feb. 4, 2014, and on March 20, 2014, he sentenced Peart to 33 months’ incarceration. As part of her plea agreement, Peart acknowledged that a co-conspirator, believed to be located in Canada, mailed letters to elderly victims in the United States falsely informing the victims that they had won more than a million dollars in a lottery. These letters purported to be from an actual sweepstakes company in the United States.
“International lottery fraudsters have cheated Americans out of tens of millions of dollars,” said Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “In this particular scheme, the fraudsters convinced the victims to deposit counterfeit checks into their bank accounts in order to pay fees to collect their purported lottery winnings. After the victims sent the money to King, the counterfeit cashier’s checks bounced and they lost their money. Such fraud will not be tolerated. Together with federal and local law enforcement, we are working to put an end to this type of scheme.”
The evidence at King’s trial showed that a co-conspirator sent fraudulent lottery letters to the victims and included counterfeit cashier’s checks made out to the victims for thousands of dollars. These letters instructed victims to call “claims agents” who were actually co-conspirators, and when the victims called the purported claims agents, the agents informed the victims that they had to pay several thousand dollars in fees in order to collect their purported lottery winnings. The claims agents told the victims to deposit the cashier’s checks in the victims’ bank accounts in order to purportedly cover the money they had to pay. The co-conspirators instructed the victims on how to send and wire this money to King and others. The cashier’s checks that victims received from the fraudulent lottery had no value. The evidence demonstrated that after the victims sent money to King, the counterfeit cashier’s checks bounced. Victims never received any lottery winnings.
Evidence presented at trial showed that King kept a percentage of the money she received from victims and sent the rest of the money to a co-conspirator. King continued to participate in this scheme even after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service verbally informed her that she was participating in unlawful activity, and after she later signed a Cease and Desist Order requiring that she stop receiving money from victims of fraud. The order that King signed described the lottery related activity that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service explained was unlawful.
Assistant Attorney General Delery commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Director Jeffrey Steger and Trial Attorney Kathryn Drenning with the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch.