Jamaican National Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge in Lottery Fraud/Extortion Scheme
Defendant Tried to Trick Victims Into Believing They Won Mega Millions Lottery
WASHINGTON – Keniel Thomas, 29, a Jamaican national, pled guilty today to trying to extort money from a couple in Washington D.C., who he tried to trick into believing they won the Mega Millions lottery, announced U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Thomas, also known as “David Morgan,” pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of interstate communication with the intent to extort. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Thomas faces a likely range of 33 to 41 months in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Following completion of his prison term, he will face deportation proceedings. The Honorable Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell scheduled sentencing for Jan. 11, 2019.
According to the government’s evidence, Thomas, posing as “David Morgan,” placed a call on June 9, 2014 to a man who lived and worked in the District of Columbia. Thomas told the man that he was the head of Mega Millions and that the man was the winner of $15.5 million and a 2014 Mercedes Benz. Thomas told the man that the man needed to pay $50,000 to cover the taxes before the award was provided to him. He also told the man that he had information about his employment history. Shortly after the call, the man contacted the FBI.
The following day, the man placed a call to “David Morgan” that was recorded by the FBI. In it, Thomas again told the man that he worked for Mega Millions. This time, he said the man was the first-place winner of a prize valued at $72 million and that included a 2014 Mercedes Benz with a year of free insurance. Once again, Thomas said that the man needed to send $50,000 to him to cover the taxes on the prizes.
Over the course of the next month, Thomas made numerous calls to the man in attempts to get the money. He also reached the man’s wife and threatened violence if the money was not paid. Among other things, he claimed that he had done surveillance on the couple’s home.
An FBI investigation led to the identification of Thomas. A criminal complaint was filed against Thomas in July 2014. He was arrested on Dec. 18, 2017, after he traveled by plane from Montego Bay, Jamaica, to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. He has remained in custody ever since.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu and Assistant Director in Charge McNamara commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also expressed appreciation for the work of those who handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter C. Lallas and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Ephraim (Fry) Wernick. Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys David J. Gorman and Kathryn L. Rakoczy, who investigated and prosecuted the matter.