Two New York men were sentenced today for participating in a 12-year scheme to mail fraudulent prize notices that tricked elderly and vulnerable consumers into paying fees for falsely promised cash prizes.
Sean Novis, 53, and Gary Denkberg, 59, both of Long Island, were sentenced to 90 and 66 months in prison, respectively. The sentences were imposed by U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack, who also ordered Novis to forfeit $60 million and Denkberg to forfeit $19 million.
In August 2020, Novis and Denkberg were charged with operating mass mailing fraud schemes that tricked thousands of victims, many of whom were elderly, into providing the defendants with money by falsely promising prizes. Evidence presented at trial showed that, from January 2003 to September 2016, Novis and Denkberg mailed millions of prize notices that falsely represented that the victims had been specifically chosen to receive a large cash prize and would receive the prize if they paid a fee. Victims who paid the requested fee, however, did not receive the promised cash prize. Although the notices appeared to be personalized correspondence, they were merely mass-produced, boilerplate documents that were bulk mailed to recipients whose names and addresses were on mailing lists. During 12 years of perpetrating these mail fraud schemes, Novis and Denkberg stole more than $90 million from thousands of victims.
In May 2022, a federal jury in Central Islip, New York, convicted both men of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, fraudulent use of fictitious names, and aiding and abetting other mail fraud schemes.
“Today’s sentencing is an important step in delivering justice for the thousands of victims who had more than $90 million stolen from them by the defendants in this case,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department is accelerating our efforts to investigate and prevent scams that target seniors, to return stolen funds to the victims, and to hold accountable the criminals who prey on vulnerable Americans.”
“Those who commit fraud that targets America’s seniors face serious penalties,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department is committed to pursuing these prosecutions and is thankful for the Postal Inspection Service’s assistance with this matter.”
“Today’s sentence clearly demonstrates that defrauding Americans has serious consequences,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. “Postal Inspectors are committed to investigating fraud targeting our customers and bringing those responsible to justice.”
The trial resulted from a multi-year investigation conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Consumer Protection Branch Trial Attorneys Charles Dunn and Carolyn Rice and Assistant Director J. Matt Williams are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanisha Payne for the Eastern District of New York’s Asset Recovery Section is handling forfeiture matters.
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 open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. Information about the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Initiative is available at www.justice.gov/elderjustice.