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Press Release

Virginia Resident Sentenced to Prison in Connection with Lottery Scheme Based in Jamaica

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A Jamaican citizen residing in Virginia was sentenced to prison today for his role in an international lottery scam, the Justice Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) announced. 

Carlos O’Brien Ricketts, 32, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Michael F. Urbanski of the Western District of Virginia to serve 10 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay $74,450 in restitution to his victims. 

Ricketts was indicted on Nov. 6, 2014, by a federal grand jury in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in connection with a fraudulent lottery scheme based in Jamaica that induced elderly victims to send thousands of dollars to cover fees for lottery winnings that the victims had not in fact won.  On March 24, Ricketts pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

“The masterminds of lottery fraud from Jamaica use co-conspirators in the United States not only to help collect money from innocent victims, but also to make their scheme appear less suspicious,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute those who direct or facilitate these international lottery schemes.”

As part of his guilty plea, Ricketts acknowledged that, had the case gone to trial, the government would have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that from May 2010 through April 2011, he was a middleman in the United States for a fictitious sweepstakes operating from Jamaica.  According to the indictment, a co-conspirator induced elderly victims in the United States to send thousands of dollars to Ricketts to cover fees for purported lottery winnings that, in fact, the victims had not won. 

This case is part of the government’s crackdown on international fraudulent lottery schemes that target elderly individuals in the United States.  The indictment alleged that the co-conspirator instructed the victims to send their payments to Ricketts in the form of cash and checks via mail and as wire transfers. 

As part of his guilty plea, Ricketts acknowledged that, had the case gone to trial, the government would have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he received payments at his home address in Stephens City, Virginia, and at another address in Winchester, Virginia, sometimes using his own name and at other times used the name “Kevin Brown” to receive the money.  Ricketts further acknowledged that had the case gone to trial, the government would have proved that he kept part of the money for himself and then sent the remainder of the money in wire transfers to Jamaica, sometimes using the “Kevin Brown” name and addresses other than his own in order to evade detection.   

“Fraud schemes like this one that prey on senior citizens will not be tolerated,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Anthony P. Giorno of the Western District of Virginia.  “Our office will provide whatever resources and assistance may be required in order to identify and bring these criminals to justice.”

“Homeland Security Investigations is committed to disrupting and combatting these international lottery schemes,” said Special Agent in Charge Clark E. Settles of HSI Washington, D.C., which oversees the agency’s Harrisonburg office.  “While fraudulent schemes of any kind are despicable, targeting vulnerable populations is especially depraved and will not be tolerated.”

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer and Acting U.S. Attorney Giorno commended HSI’s investigative efforts.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Kathryn Drenning of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Grayson Hoffman of the Western District of Virginia.

Updated July 1, 2015

Consumer Protection
Press Release Number: 15-835