PROVIDENCE, RI – A Rhode Island man who admitted to participating in a Jamaica-based telemarketing scam that primarily targeted and victimized elderly U.S. citizens was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Providence to 30 months in federal prison.
Shawn Whitfield, 49, of Pawtucket, R.I., admitted to receiving more than $109,000 in upfront payments from victims of the scam who were led to believe they had won cash or prizes in a lottery or sweepstakes. Some victims were told they had won as much as $82 million. Others were told they were in line to receive $5,000 a week for life. Mercedes Benz vehicles were among the valuable prizes some of the victims were told they had won.
In each instance, victims were told their winnings would not be released to them without upfront payment of taxes or fees. According to court documents, information presented to the Court by the Government, and by victims and family members who made or provided impact statements to the Court, individuals sent payments to Whitfield ranging between $212 and $50,000. Some individuals reported sending multiple payments after being instructed to do so by the scammers.
The majority of funds collected by Whitfield were transferred electronically to co-conspirators and others, most often to individuals in Jamaica.
“This defendant’s sentence provides him an opportunity to reflect on the financial and emotional turmoil he caused dozens of people, most of them elderly, when he and his cohorts stole their money,” said United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman. “My office, like Department of Justice offices across the country, is committed to combatting all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions like in this case, training and resources, victim services, and public awareness. Our prosecutors and advocates make themselves available to the community to discuss the warning signs of scams and steps to take to help ensure that they do not become a scammer’s next victim.”
United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) agents, assisted by members of the Pawtucket Police Department, Rhode Island State Police, and the U.S. Marshals Service, executed a court-authorized search of Shawn Whitfield’s residence on February 20, 2018. Simultaneously, Whitfield was arrested at his place of employment in Norwood, Mass., by USPIS agents.
Whitfield pleaded guilty on June 3, 2019, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud. At sentencing, today U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith sentenced Whitfield to 30 months in federal prison to be followed by 3 years supervised release. The Court ordered restitution be paid to the victims, the amount to be determined at a later date.
Whitfield’s sentence is announced by United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman and Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise M. Barton, Elder Justice Coordinator for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island.
Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. If you are a victim or know a victim of elder fraud, you can call 1-877-FTC-HELP or go to ftc.gov/complaint. For downloadable Elder Abuse Prevention resources and for information about community outreach programs in Rhode Island, visit the United States Attorney’s Office’s Elder Justice Initiative web page at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ri/elder-justice