Indictment Unsealed Following Arrests for International Lottery Fraud Scheme That Preyed on Elderly in California and Elsewhere
Dozens of victims lost at least $1.4 million
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An indictment was unsealed following the arrests today of two defendants in Medellin, Colombia, for a lottery fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
On August 23, 2018, a federal grand jury returned a 41-count indictment against Alexander Franco Gutierrez, 40, of Medellin, Colombia; Eduardo Cartagena, 43, of Medellin, Colombia; and Oldaim Lopes, 39, of Calgary, Canada, charging them with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering related to a fake sweepstake scheme that targeted victims over the age of 55. Gutierrez and Cartagena were arrested in Colombia. Lopes remains out of custody in Canada and is being informed of the charges.
According to court documents, Gutierrez and his co-conspirators contacted elderly individuals in the Eastern District of California and elsewhere telling them that they had won a lottery or sweepstakes in the millions of dollars, but had to prepay taxes or insurance fees prior to getting their prize. The conspirators used various means to convince the victims of the lottery or sweepstakes’ authenticity and to avoid detection, including using false aliases, having one victim mail another checks disguised as “investments,” and instructing victims to lie to bank tellers and family members about what purpose the checks or money orders served. In all, dozens of victims over the age of 55 were targeted in the telemarketing scheme, which caused actual losses of at least $1.4 million.
Lopes and Cartagena then conspired with Gutierrez to move the resulting money out of the United States and conceal its nature and source.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS Criminal Investigation. Significant assistance was provided by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Yelovich is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Gutierrez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the mail and wire fraud counts as well as the conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. All three defendants face a maximum of 20 years of in prison and a fine of up to $500,000, or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, whichever is greater, for the conspiracy to commit money laundering. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The U.S. Department of Justice has partnered with Senior Corps, a national service program administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency, to educate seniors and prevent further victimization. The Senior Corps program engages more than 245,000 older adults in intensive service each year, who in turn, serve more than 840,000 additional seniors, including 332,000 veterans. Using its vast network operating in more than 30,000 locations, Senior Corps volunteers will communicate about elder fraud to potential victims across the country and will use their skills, knowledge and experience to educate their peers and caregivers about the most prolific types of schemes and how to avoid them.
Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office of Victims of Crime, which can be reached at www.ovc.gov.