A Nevada man was sentenced today in Las Vegas for perpetrating a prize-notification scheme that defrauded thousands of elderly and vulnerable victims. Edgar Del Rio, 56, of Las Vegas, was sentenced to 51 months in prison. Del Rio previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
According to court documents, Del Rio and other co-conspirators printed and mailed millions of fraudulent prize notices that led their victims to believe that they could claim a large cash prize if they paid a fee of $20 to $25. This was false; victims who paid the fees did not receive anything of value. Once victims fell prey to the scheme, Del Rio and his co-conspirators bombarded them with more fraudulent mail. Del Rio and his partners received millions of dollars from victims.
“Today’s sentence holds Edgar Del Rio accountable for using lies to steal from the elderly and vulnerable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department is committed to protecting consumers from predatory mass-mailing schemes.”
The scheme operated from 2010 to February 2018, when postal inspectors executed multiple search warrants and the Justice Department obtained a court order shutting down the fraudulent mail operation. Del Rio operated one of several printing and mailing businesses that sent the fraudulent mail and shared the profits from the fraudulent prize notices.
“The defendant is being held fully accountable for his role in perpetuating a multi-year fraud scheme and stealing millions of dollars from thousands of elderly victims,” said U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson for the District of Nevada. “Working together with the Consumer Protection Branch and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, we will pursue and shutdown perpetrators who prey on vulnerable citizens for financial gain and bring them to justice.”
“Thousands of vulnerable older Americans were scammed by Edgar Del Rio and his cohorts,” said Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the U.S. Postal Inspection Services (USPIS) Criminal Investigations Group. “Postal inspectors work hard investigate and apprehend scammers, but also to prevent these scams. The best defense is to not respond to prize-winning correspondence in the first place, and if you have to pay money to claim a prize, you can be sure it’s a scam.”
Three other people previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with this prize notice scheme: Patti Kern, 66, of Henderson, Nevada; Andrea Burrow, 53, of Las Vegas; and Sean O’Connor, 54, of Las Vegas. Three other members of the scheme were found guilty by a jury and sentenced earlier this year. Mario Castro, 55, of Las Vegas, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Miguel Castro, 58, of Las Vegas, was sentenced to 19 years and six months in prison. Jose Luis Mendez, 49, of Henderson, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
USPIS investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Timothy Finley and Daniel Zytnick of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mina Chang for the District of Nevada prosecuted the case.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can 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 open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
More information about the department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage at www.justice.gov/elderjustice. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Justice Department provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which can be reached at www.ovc.gov.