North Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office Continues Attack on Transnational Criminal Organizations in “Operation Hard Copy”
Providence, Rhode Island, Woman Sentenced to Four Years Imprisonment for Transnational Crimes, including Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit International Money Laundering
BISMARCK – United States Attorney Drew H. Wrigley announced that on July 10, 2019, Chief United States District Judge Daniel L. Hovland sentenced Melinda Bulgin, of Providence, Rhode Island, on charges 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. Judge Hovland sentenced Bulgin to serve four years imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, a payment of $333,251.00 restitution, and $1,500 special assessment to the Crime Victims’ Fund. On September 14, 2018, a federal jury found Bulgin guilty on 15 criminal counts.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation 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, Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, Jamaican Operations Linked to Telemarketing 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.
United States Attorney Drew H. Wrigley said, “The defendant stands convicted for her very significant role in a conspiracy that involved over 30 criminal defendants, crossed international borders, targeted elderly and other victims, led one victim to commit suicide, and gutted savings accounts for so many victims who had worked a lifetime to provide for their retirements. After speaking with one of the defendant’s victims today, it underscored how deeply damaging these crimes remain for the victims and their families. The United States fought for a sentence that would reflect the severity of these complex financial crimes. Judge Hovland saw things differently and significantly departed downward with the sentence. While that part of this defendant’s penalty is out of our hands, the Department of Justice will continue to fight for every dollar of restitution we can secure for every victim of this fraudulent ring of financial predators.”
“I want to compliment the outstanding work of FBI Special Agent Frank Gasper and the team of investigators he led, and the remarkable prosecutors who have seen this case through to its end,” Wrigley stated.
The investigation was begun and led by Special Agent Frank Gasper of the North Dakota office of the FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service 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 James Patrick Thomas, Jonathan O’Konek, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Chase, and former Assistant U. S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter, and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Leila Babaeva.
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