Jamaican lottery scammer receives 34 months for defrauding elderly victims and making death threats
Jamaican defendant convicted of conducting lottery scam to defraud elderly victims throughout the United States of their retirement accounts and savings and making death threats
INDIANAPOLIS – United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced today the conviction and sentencing of Oraine Gray a/k/a “James Cooper”, a 23-year-old resident of Jamaica, to 34 months in federal prison after his admission of guilt to devising a lottery scam that swindled elderly and vulnerable victims throughout the United States of their retirement accounts and savings, and to making death threats in furtherance of the scam. The defendant was arrested in Jamaica on September 20, 2018 and waived extradition to the United States.
“This defendant preyed on these elderly victims in the most despicable way – by taking from them through lies and deceit over a significant time period,” said Minkler. “Protecting the most vulnerable members of society from these scammers, no matter where they reside, is a top priority of this office. This sentence sends a message that the Southern District of Indiana will go after international scammers, extradite, and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
From in or about April 2014 and continuing until on or about September 5, 2018, the defendant, and other unknown individuals residing in Jamaica, defrauded and attempted to defraud elderly victims located throughout the United States in a complex lottery scam. The defendant and others represented to the victims that they were lottery/contest winners who needed to pay certain taxes and fees to collect millions of dollars of their lottery winnings and/or prizes. In reality, the victims were not actual lottery or contest winners. None of the victims received the money promised to them during the course of the scam.
The defendant and others masked their identities through the use of various telephone applications and other technologies. Through these applications, they directed the victims to send money to the defendant and others in Jamaica to obtain their purported lottery or contest winnings. The defendant and others also directed the victims to send such money to other victims and individuals throughout the United States in an attempt to conceal tracing of the proceeds of the scam. The victims sent this money by mail and wire transfers, such as Western Union, MoneyGram, U.S. Mail, and other means, most of which ended up in Jamaica. When victims attempted to stop contact with the defendant by changing telephone numbers, he searched for and used local businesses, such as pizza delivery and taxi services, to attempt to find out the new telephone numbers so that he could continue such contact. On one occasion, when a victim located in the Southern District of Indiana did not send the money as requested, the defendant threatened to kill the victim and her family, and sent individuals to her residence to try and collect the money. The defendant caused the victims to transfer over $90,000 to Jamaica and elsewhere in furtherance of the scheme.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Targeting seniors and their savings – money they’ve worked hard to save over their lifetime - is an intolerable crime. Today’s sentence sends a strong message to con artists such as Mr. Gray that the FBI won’t stand by and let some of our most vulnerable citizens be preyed upon in this manner,” said Grant Mendenhall, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Division. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to do everything in our power to root out these fraudsters and ensure they are held accountable, no matter where they are, so they can no longer victimize the elderly.”
According to Assistant United States Attorney MaryAnn T. Mindrum, who prosecuted this case for the government, Gray will not serve any supervised release following his sentence because he will be deported back to Jamaica after completing his sentence.
In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the Office’s firm commitment to prosecuting those who engage in complex, large-scale fraud schemes that exploit vulnerable victims, those who engage in cyber-threats, and those who hide behind new technologies to commit such crimes. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan 4.1, 4.4, and 5.1.