Jamaican Citizen Sentenced in Connection with International Lottery Scheme That Defrauded Elderly Americans
Oneike Mickhale Barnett, a Jamaican citizen, was sentenced today in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in connection with his role in a fraudulent lottery scheme based in Jamaica that targeted victims in the United States, the Justice Department announced. Barnett was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William J. Zloch to serve 60 months in prison and 5 years supervised release. Barnett also was ordered to pay $94,456 in restitution.
Barnett’s prosecution is part of the Department of Justice’s effort, working with federal and local law enforcement, to combat fraudulent foreign lottery 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 and sweepstakes.
“This sentence sends a strong message that the American justice system will not stand by while criminals defraud unsuspecting Americans of their savings,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will use all available means to hold these international criminals accountable.”
Barnett was arrested in Orlando, Fla., in August 2013, following his indictment by a federal grand jury in Ft. Lauderdale on Aug. 9, 2012. Barnett pleaded guilty on Feb. 28, 2014, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As part of his guilty plea, Barnett acknowledged that had the case gone to trial, the United States government would have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that, from 2008 through 2012, he was a member of a conspiracy in which elderly victims were informed that they had won a large amount of money in a lottery and were induced to pay bogus fees in advance of receiving their purported lottery winnings. In an effort to convince the victims that the lottery winnings were real, the conspirators sent them written and electronic communications discussing their purported lottery winnings which claimed to be from a genuine sweepstakes company, and from federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve.
“As international fraudsters focus their criminal schemes on Americans, we will do all we can to prosecute and deter such criminal activity,” said Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “ We will continue to bring international fraudsters to justice in the United States.”
Also as part of his guilty plea, Barnett acknowledged that the government would have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew the claims of lottery winnings were completely fabricated and he, along with his co-conspirators, kept the victims’ money for their own benefit without paying any lottery winnings.
Assistant Attorney General Delery and U.S. Attorney Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bertha Mitrani and Consumer Protection Branch, Civil Division Assistant Director Jeffrey Steger and Trial Attorney Kathryn Drenning.