WASHINGTON – An employee of Costa Rica-based telemarketing call centers was sentenced today to serve 108 months in prison for his role in a phony sweepstakes scheme that defrauded thousands of U.S. victims of more than $10 million, announced Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer.
Osman Bah, 25, of Owings Mills, Md., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn of the Western District of North Carolina. In addition to his prison term, Bah was sentenced to serve two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $187,500 in restitution.
On July 26, 20l1, Bah pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to court documents, Bah participated in a conspiracy to defraud U.S. residents, most above the age of 55, out of millions of dollars by deceiving them into believing each person had won a large monetary prize in a “sweepstakes contest.” Calls to victims were made from Costa Rica using Internet-connected computers that disguised the originating location of the calls. Victims were informed that the callers were from the Federal Trade Commission, and that to receive their prize, victims had to wire thousands of dollars for a purported refundable insurance fee to Bah. Bah received the victims’ money in Maryland and, after keeping a portion for himself, forwarded the rest of the money on to his co-conspirators in Costa Rica. As long as the victims continued to pay, the co-conspirators continued to solicit more money from them.
Bah’s co-conspirator Ercell Carey pleaded guilty in June 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud for his role in the scheme. He was sentenced to serve eight months of home confinement, forfeit $61,689 and pay $43,022 in restitution, jointly and severally.
To date, 45 defendants have been convicted for their participation in this scheme.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney William H. Bowne, Senior Litigation Counsel Patrick M. Donley and former Senior Trial Attorney Peter B. Loewenberg of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Inspector General; FBI; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.