New York Man Pleads Guilty to Fake Lottery Scam
BOSTON – A New York man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with his role in a bogus lottery scheme in which the victims were told they had won millions of dollars in lotteries but must first pay the taxes in order for their winnings to be released to them.
Wilder Vladimir Merelan, of West Hempstead, NY, 29, pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Mark L. Wolf scheduled sentencing for Aug. 10, 2016.
From 2012 to 2015, Merelan’s Jamaican co-conspirators solicited victims, who ranged in age from 69 to 91. The victims were told that they had won millions of dollars in a lottery but had to pay taxes on their winnings to the IRS before the funds could be released to them. Victims mailed checks or wired funds to Merelan, who kept a portion for himself and then distributed the rest as directed by his co-conspirators. Merelan was described to these victims as a “sub agent” for the IRS. Approximately 16 victims, including a Massachusetts man, sent more than $830,000 to Merelan in an effort to secure their supposed lottery winnings. Some of the funds were stopped by banks or intercepted by the U.S. Postal Service. However, Merelan received $733,999.
After depositing the checks and receiving the wire transfers into his bank accounts, Merelan withdrew cash, wired funds to individuals in the United States and Jamaica, and purchased reloadable prepaid cards, essentially draining his accounts of the funds he had received.
The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss, whichever is greater. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Shelly Binkowski, Inspector in Charge of the Postal Inspection Service; and Matthew Etre, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra S. Bower of Ortiz’s Economic Crimes Unit.