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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Iowa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Jamaican National Sentenced to 41 Months in Federal Prison for “Outrageous Victimization of Elderly and Sick People”

A Jamaican man was sentenced yesterday, in federal court in Cedar Rapids, to 41 months’ imprisonment for participating in a mail fraud scheme that defrauded an elderly and sick Illinois couple. Ricardo Fredrick Smith a/k/a “Rickey Ricardo Smith” a/k/a “Ricky” a/k/a “Stinger”, 39, from St. James Parish, Jamaica, received the prison term after his guilty plea in October 2016 to one count of Mail Fraud. Smith admitted he participated in the scheme beginning no later than September 2015, and continuing through at least December 2015. As a part of the scheme, an elderly Illinois woman was falsely told she had won a lottery and was entitled to large sums of money. She was also told the winnings or funds could be claimed only if she first mailed money for purported taxes or fees. In truth, no such winnings existed and the calls were designed only to steal from the victim and her husband, a U.S. Navy veteran who was the resident of a long-term care facility and suffering from dementia. Like many senior citizens in the United States, the couple received unsolicited telephone calls; they even changed their telephone number to avoid unsolicited calls, but such calls nonetheless resumed after they changed their phone number.

 

Smith lived in the United States during the growing seasons of 2015 and 2016 under an H2B visa, which allowed him to work at two Cedar Rapids area lawn-care companies. At his plea hearing and the sentencing hearing, Smith admitted that he recruited his girlfriend, Tea Ware, into the scheme in 2015 and instructed Ware to communicate with him by means of a popular encrypted instant messaging application to evade detection by law enforcement. Before leaving the United States in 2015, Smith opened a second, “shadow” banking account at a local financial institution at which he was a patron and added Ware as a joint account owner to the “shadow” account to facilitate the fraud. Then, while in Jamaica in December 2015, defendant used the encrypted messaging system to instruct Ware how to structure withdrawals of the victims’ funds from the “shadow” account in a way that would evade law enforcement scrutiny. Smith was arrested in 2016 just before leaving the United States for a second time.

 

The prosecution is part of the Elder Justice Initiative of the Department of Justice. In June 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa was selected as one of 10 districts in the nation to form an Elder Justice Task Force (http://go.usa.gov/cSngj). The task force was assembled to foster a collaborative working relationship among all levels of government officials, advocacy groups for the elderly and the disabled, and others charged with the care and protection for these vulnerable groups. The goals include ensuring the integrity of all government expenditures by eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse in health programs, and protecting some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens from harm, whether it occurs in nursing homes or other institutions or involves financial fraud schemes. To learn more about the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative, visit: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/

 

Smith was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade. Judge Reade found Smith crime an “outrageous victimization of elderly and sick people”, noting that the elderly Illinois couple consisted of a woman with memory problems and a U.S. Navy veteran suffering from dementia who lives in a long-term care facility. When Smith asked for leniency because he was likely to be deported to Jamaica following his prison term and would live a life of poverty there, Judge Reade responded, “so be it.” Judge Reade sentenced Smith to 41 months’ imprisonment. A special assessment of $100 was imposed, and he was ordered to make $108,100 in restitution his elderly victims. Smith must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system. Smith is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

 

Acting United States Attorney Sean R. Berry stated, “Protecting the elderly and sick from financial abuse is a priority of this Office. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold these predators accountable. I thank the diligent agents of the FBI and USPIS for their hard work on this case.” FBI SAC Randall Thysse praised the cooperative efforts of the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service and the United States Attorney’s Office to bring the perpetrator of this crime against a vulnerable victim to justice. “The US Postal Inspection Service is committed to ensuring that these types of predatory schemes are investigated aggressively,” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Craig Goldberg of the Denver Division, which covers multiple states including Iowa. “The stiff sentence issued in this case highlights the efforts of Postal Inspectors who ensure those who conduct these schemes are brought to justice, especially when foreign nationals bring their schemes to U.S. soil.”

 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tim Vavricek and was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.

The case file number is 16-CR-92-LRR.

 

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Topic(s): 
Elder Justice
Component(s): 
Updated June 13, 2017