NEWARK, N.J. – A Jamaican man was charged today with defrauding residents of the United States and Canada by allegedly tricking them into believing they had won multimillion-dollar lotteries and sweepstakes, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ricardo Reid, 30, of Jamaica, West Indies, was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He will be arraigned at a date to be determined.
According to the indictment:
Reid and others would target their victims by purchasing client lists of elderly and vulnerable individuals from brokers specializing in such information. Reid and his conspirators would initiate contact with the victims by telephone calls from Jamaica and falsely represent themselves to be lottery officials, bankers, or IRS agents.
Reid and his conspirators would then falsely inform the victims that they had won millions of dollars in a lottery or sweepstakes, but in order to redeem these winnings, they had to pay registration and/or other fees and taxes. Reid and his conspirators would direct the victims to pay the bogus fees using several methods, including mailing cash or money orders to other victims or to other members of the conspiracy in the United States. The money was then either smuggled to Jamaica or deposited into United States bank accounts and withdrawn from ATMs located in Jamaica. In other instances, the victims were directed to either wire the bogus fees through Western Union or Money Gram directly to Jamaica.
Reid and his conspirators would generally direct the victims to make repeated payments of fees until either the victim’s funds were depleted or, after realizing they had been scammed, the victims refused to make additional payments. At times, Reid and his conspirators induced and caused the victims to liquidate assets in order to pay the bogus fees.
Reid and his conspirators would conceal their identities using various methods, including aliases like “Robert Gates,” “Mr. Bogohazian,” “Damien Boswell,” “Mr. Washington,” and “Mark Anderson,” and the use of call forwarding and Magic Jack to make and receive calls while masking their phone number and location.
The alleged victims include an 88-year-old resident of Arkansas who lost $110,932; a 57-year-old New Jersey resident who lost $249,394; a 76-year-old Canadian resident who lost $71,919; and a 74-year-old resident of Puerto Rico, who lost $64,433.
The conspiracy count with which Reid is charged carries maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence Opiola in Newark; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Postal Inspector in Charge James Ball, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment.
The USPIS is warning older Americans and caregivers to beware foreign lottery or sweepstakes schemes. No legitimate sweepstakes or lottery will ask for fees or taxes to be paid in order to claim a prize. Anyone contacted to play a foreign lottery or sweepstakes should follow these tips:
• Don’t give out personal or financial information to anyone over the Internet or phone;
• Never wire or send money to anyone, anywhere who says you’ve won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes;
• Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision;
• Never purchase anything until you get all the information in writing.
• Visit deliveringtrust.com for helpful information on protection from fraud.
Mail fraud can be reported online at: www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov or by phone at 1-877-876-2455.
Defense counsel: K. Anthony Thomas Esq. Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark