District Court Enters Temporary Restraining Order to Shut Down Three Elder Fraud Schemes
CENTRAL ISLIP – A federal court in Central Islip, New York, entered a temporary injunction yesterday against 15 individuals and corporations allegedly responsible for operating three international mail fraud schemes, the Department of Justice announced. The Department of Justice alleges that, in 2018 alone, the three schemes collectively mailed over half a million fraudulent letters and grossed an estimated $4.8 million in fraudulent proceeds. The case is part of the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Initiative.
In a complaint filed yesterday, the United States alleged that defendants mailed, or facilitated the mailing of, fraudulent solicitations related to three mail fraud schemes that primarily victimized the elderly or vulnerable. The solicitations purported to be personalized notices informing recipients that they had won multi-million dollar cash prizes but needed urgently to pay a fee to claim their winnings. The solicitations targeted victims throughout the world, and victims returned their payments to mailboxes located in the United States, primarily on Long Island. Although victims sent in the requested fees by cash, check or credit card, they did not receive large cash prizes in return. The complaint further alleges that the defendants were aware that the mailings deceived consumers into paying a fee and believing they had already won a valuable prize. The complaint alleges that victims sent thousands of dollars each week in response to the defendants’ fraudulent solicitations.
Along with the complaint, the United States sought a temporary restraining order against the defendants to prevent them from continuing to send fraudulent solicitations during the pendency of the action. The District Court found probable cause to believe that the defendants are engaged in mail fraud and entered the order. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for December 3, 2018.
“These fraudulent solicitation schemes target elderly and vulnerable residents in our district, around the country and around the world with a promise of cash prizes that never arrive,” stated Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We are committed to protecting our residents, and victims everywhere, from these cruel schemes.”
“We will not allow the U.S. Mail to be used as a conduit for fraud,” stated Joseph H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Schemes that prey on people’s hopes are reprehensible. We will continue to pursue the operators of such schemes.”
“These individuals thought they would get away with a crime targeting the elderly and vulnerable who in many cases gave away money needed for day to day necessities. The victims were told they had won the lottery and needed to pay fees to receive their winnings,” stated Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service, New York Division. “Postal Inspectors remind consumers that paying to play a lottery is a telltale sign it’s a scam. If you prey on the elderly and vulnerable, you will be brought to justice for your crimes.”
According to the complaint, Charles Kafeiti of Scottsdale, Arizona; Anthony Kafeiti of Port Jefferson, New York; and Steven Diaz of Mt. Sinai, New York, operate fraud schemes that lead victims to believe that large cash awards await them. Those defendants were assisted by Drew Wilson, a resident of Vancouver, Canada, who provided logistical support. Other named defendants, Dennis Hunsaker, a resident of Las Vegas Nevada, and his company, Digital Matrix International Inc., assisted the direct mailers with online tools to manage their mailings, lists of recipients, lists of respondents and fulfillments. Carmine Maietta and Elizabeth Maietta, both residents of Westbury opened and processed victim returns. The lawsuit also named a German corporation, SixEvolution GmbH and its operator, David Anthony, that processed victim payments for the scheme.
The government is represented by Trial Attorney Jacqueline Blaesi-Freed of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seth Eichenholtz and John Vagelatos of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The United States Postal Inspection Service provided investigative support.
The claims made in the complaint are allegations that, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government must prove to receive a determination of liability.
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, visit its website at www.justice.gov/usao-edny. Information about the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Imitative is available at www.justice.gov/elderjustice.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CV-6581 (JMA)