North Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office Continues Attack on Transnational Criminal Organizations in ‘Operation Hard Copy’
Melinda Bulgin found Guilty on all Fifteen Counts of Transnational Crime including Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit International Money Laundering
BISMARCK – Melinda Bulgin, of Providence, Rhode Island, was found guilty on September 14, 2018, by a federal jury on all 15 counts of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud or Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Mail Fraud, and Conspiracy to Commit International Money Laundering, in connection with her participation in a transnational criminal advance fee telemarketing (“lottery”) fraud.
The FBI led the investigation of Bulgin and others that resulted in the extradition of 14 Jamaican nationals and successful prosecution of 31 defendants in North Dakota. The FBI, United States Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, and a host of state and local authorities throughout the United States have assisted in the investigation, along with the Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF), Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), Jamaican Operations Linked to Telemarketing (JOLT) Task Force, and other U.S. and international authorities.
Bulgin was found guilty of conspiring with Sanjay Williams and others. A federal jury in North Dakota found Williams guilty of similar charges in 2015. Williams was sentenced to serve 20 years imprisonment following his conviction. He was the first Jamaican national tried and convicted in the United States for selling lead lists for use in international cyber-fraud schemes. Lead lists or “client” lists consist of the names, telephone numbers, and personal information of potential victims. Such lists are compiled by brokers and sold to scammers. Lead lists are created by wholesalers who send out bogus mass mailings, purporting to be sweepstakes entries. Consumers, thinking the mailings are legitimate, pay to enter the non-existent sweepstakes. The list wholesalers pocket the entry fee and then sell the prospective victims’ contact information to scammers for as much as $10 per name. These scammers target victims over the age of 55 and would sometimes threaten the safety of the victims and their families.
Over 100 known victims of the conspiracy were personally identified, with reported losses totaling over $6 million. The FBI identified and interviewed known victims of the conspiracy in 31 states and 97 cities across the United States. Thousands more victims were located, whose losses were not personally identified. Individual victims lost as little as $199 and as much as $850,000. Nationwide, the number of victims targeted by scammers is likely in the millions, with estimates of annual losses in excess of $1 billion.
"Melinda Bulgin and her coconspirators deliberately targeted senior citizens as part of a lottery fraud scheme that affected dozens of victims, some of whom lost their life savings, life insurance, and even their homes," said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. "The conviction in this case is the result of the hard work and determination of our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners, along with the prosecutors in the District of North Dakota and Criminal Division—and it demonstrates our firm commitment to stopping those who exploit senior citizens and other vulnerable populations."
“This case involves a unique kind of victimization. It is an assault of the victims’ trust and dreams, in addition to their pocket books. Victims are targeted because their age or personal circumstances make them particularly vulnerable. The resulting harm is financial, psychological, and physical. Until recently, these scammers operated with impunity. What is amazing about this case is what an impact such a small team of investigators and prosecutors from North Dakota has had on this criminal organization,” said U.S. Attorney Myers. “They have poured their heart and soul into this case for over six years.”
The investigation was begun and led by Special Agent Frank Gasper of the North Dakota office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) in Florida, with assistance from many other federal and state law enforcement agencies, as well as Jamaican law enforcement agencies.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Clare Hochhalter, James Patrick Thomas, Nicholas Chase, Jonathan O’Konek, and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Leila Babaeva.
Sentencing for Bulgin has been set for December 17, 2018.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in North Dakota continues to be a leader in the battle against transnational organized crime and will be recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in October. https://www.justice.gov/usao-nd/pr/north-dakota-us-attorney-s-office-receives-international-leadership-award