Four South Florida Residents Guilty of Conspiring to Commit Sweepstakes Mail Fraud
Three Florida residents were found guilty by a Miami jury on July 26, 2017, for participating in a sweepstakes mail fraud scheme.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Antonio J. Gomez, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division, made the announcement.
Matthew Pisoni, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, Marcus Pradel, 41, of Boca Raton, and Victor Ramirez, 37, of Aventura, were found guilty of conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, after a five-week trial. Pisoni, Pradel and Ramirez face a maximum statutory penalty of twenty years in prison at their sentencing on October 13, 2017, at 9:30 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Gayles. John Leon, 49, of Wilton Manors, previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 13, 2017.
The trial evidence established that the four defendants, Pisoni, Pradel, Ramirez and Leon, falsely notified individuals by mail that they had won a substantial prize. The letters the defendants sent fraudulently represented that the recipients needed to pay the defendants a fee ranging from $20 to $50 to redeem their purported winnings. During the course of the mail fraud conspiracy, more than one hundred thousand victims in the United States and abroad were fraudulently induced to pay the fees by the defendants’ misleading claims that they had won a prize. The fraudulent letters directed victims to pay the fees in cash or by check or money order payable to fictitious companies. The defendants then either processed the victims’ payments through independent payment processors or deposited them into shell bank accounts controlled directly and indirectly by the defendants and their co-conspirators. In total, over $25 million in victim payments went into the defendants’ and co-conspirators’ bank accounts.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CI, USPIS, Federal Trade Commission, the Aventura Police Department, and other local and international law enforcement agencies. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elijah Levitt, and H. Ron Davidson.