Las Vegas Resident Sentenced to Prison for Elder Fraud Scheme
A Las Vegas resident who participated in a fraudulent prize-notification scheme that bilked victims out of more than $9 million was sentenced today to federal prison, the Department of Justice announced.
U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro sentenced Andrea Burrow, 50, to 36 months in prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release. Judge Navarro also ordered Burrow to forfeit $272,000. Burrow pleaded guilty in August 2020 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 fee of $20 to $30. This was false; victims who paid the fees did not receive anything of value.
Burrow is the first defendant to be sentenced 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 codefendants: Mario Castro, Jose Salud Castro, Salvador Castro, Miguel Castro, and Jose Luis Mendez. The trial of the remaining five defendants, who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, is currently scheduled for June 7, 2021.
“The Department of Justice has substantially increased its focus and resources on combating schemes that defraud American seniors, prioritizing cases like this one,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice takes every step possible to prosecute perpetrators of elder fraud scams so that it can deliver justice for victims.”
“Our office will continue our efforts to dismantle schemes like this one, preying on the vulnerable and elderly,” said U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich of the District of Nevada. “Whether they are operating in Nevada or elsewhere in the country, fraudsters will be apprehended and will face stiff consequences for their callous actions.”
“Criminals who target the elderly through heartless scam tactics via the U.S. Mail should know that Postal Inspectors are prepared to unravel their scheme, no matter how complex,” said Inspector in Charge Delany De Léon-Colón of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigations Group. “This case highlights the importance of reporting these scams to authorities, so law enforcement agents like our Postal Inspectors can have the information necessary to help bring justice to hundreds of thousands of victims through these large, successful cases.”
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.
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’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson of the District of Nevada.
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. 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 also conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act.
The department’s extensive efforts to combat elder fraud seek to halt the billions of dollars seniors lose each year to fraud schemes, including those perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations. The best method for prevention, however, is 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 and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.