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Press Release

Washington Man Sentenced To Over 4 Years In Prison For A Telemarketing Scam Targeting Elderly Citizens

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Joseph Nkunzi, 31, of Des Moines, Washington, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller to four years and three months in prison for his involvement in a telemarketing scheme that defrauded senior citizens of hundreds of thousands of dollars, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to court documents, beginning in 2011, Nkunzi and others operated a scheme that involved calling senior citizens and telling them they had won a prize. They were told that in order to receive the prize, they first needed to pay taxes and fees. The victims would either mail checks to Nkunzi or would directly deposit checks into bank accounts that he established and controlled. The scam targeted victims throughout California, including residents of Woodland, Stockton, Bakersfield, and Dinuba. When federal agents searched Nkunzi’s home in Washington, they seized a Maserati and a Lexus. In total, the victims lost approximately $850,000 to the scam.

The case first came to the attention of the FBI in April 2013, when it received a referral from the Woodland Police Department regarding a 78-year-old victim of the scam. She had been called by “North American Prize Pool” and told that she had won $8.8 million, but first she had to send $182,000 to various accounts to pay for taxes and fees.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation with assistance from the Woodland Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Michele Beckwith prosecuted the case.

Updated April 8, 2015

Release Number: Docket #: 2:13-cr-272 KJM