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Friday, March 4, 2016

Woman Indicted for Impersonating FBI Agent in Connection with Lottery Fraud Scheme Based in Jamaica

A federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia indicted a woman for impersonating an FBI special agent in connection with an international lottery fraud scheme based in Jamaica, the Department of Justice announced today. 

Vania Lee Allen, 30, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and falsely impersonating an employee of the United States, one count of wire fraud and one count of falsely impersonating an employee of the United States. 

According to the indictment, Allen and a co-conspirator in Jamaica sought to unlawfully enrich themselves through a fraudulent lottery scheme targeting an elderly resident of Evans, Georgia.  Allen’s co-conspirator falsely informed the victim by phone that the victim had won money in a lottery and instructed the victim to make payments to various people in order to collect the purported lottery winnings.  As alleged in the indictment, in order to gain the trust of the victim and induce him to continue to make payments, Allen traveled from Jamaica to the United States and falsely portrayed herself to the victim as an FBI agent. 

“Fraud schemes operating from other countries and targeting Americans often cannot fully succeed without assistance from a co-conspirator in the United States,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Scammers use many different tactics in an effort to gain the trust of their victims.  The Justice Department will actively pursue and charge those who participate in such criminal activity.”

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia is committed to vigorously prosecuting fraud schemes of all kinds,” said U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver of the Southern District of Georgia. “Those who perpetrate scams upon the vulnerable should know that federal law enforcement will work tirelessly to shut down fraud schemes and prosecute those responsible.”

According to the indictment, Allen traveled from Jamaica to the United States in early May 2015.  The indictment alleges that Allen sent a number of text messages to her co-conspirator in Jamaica discussing the plan to impersonate an FBI agent, including a text that attached an image of a law enforcement style badge with an “FBI” logo and the words “Federal Bureau of Investigation” on the face of the badge.  The indictment further alleges that on May 7, 2015, Allen traveled to the victim’s home in Evans, Georgia, falsely portrayed herself to the victim as a FBI special agent and provided the victim with a cellphone and directed him to speak with the person on the line, who was her co-conspirator in Jamaica. 

“These lottery scammers prey on elderly Americans, and convince them to send significant amounts of money based on false promises,” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge David W. Bosch of the Philadelphia Division. “The Postal Inspection Service is committed to investigating and combating these international lottery schemes.” 

This prosecution is part of the Department of Justice’s effort to work with federal and local law enforcement to combat fraudulent lottery schemes in Jamaica that prey on American citizens.  According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Americans have lost tens of millions of dollars to fraudulent foreign lotteries.

If convicted, Allen faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud count, as well as up to five years for the conspiracy count and up to three years for the false impersonation count. 

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Clint Narver of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Troy Clark of the Southern District of Georgia.  The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Columbia County Georgia Sherriff’s Office.

An indictment is merely an allegation and every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.  For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia, visit its website at http://www.justice.gov/usao-sdga.

Consumer Protection
Press Release Number: 
Updated March 8, 2016