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Press Release

Seven Individuals Indicted on Fraud and Money Laundering Charges Relating to International Lottery Scam Targeting Elderly

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH – Seven individuals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan announced today. The charges stem from the Department of Justice’s wide-ranging efforts to protect older adults from fraud and financial exploitation.

Defendants, Jason Plummer, 31; Troy Williams, 38; and Tajay Singh, 26, each of Montego Bay, Jamaica, were each named in separate, two-count Indictments. A fourth two-count Indictment named defendants Tashane Murray, 30, of Miramar, Florida; Clevon McKenzie, 31, of Mount Vernon, New York; Gyzzell Byfield, 27, of Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Daneil Reid, 27, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Murray, McKenzie, Byfield, and Reid were arrested in the United States on November 16, 2023. Plummer and Singh were arrested in Jamaica on December 13, 2023. Williams was arrested in Jamaica on December 14, 2023.

According to the Indictments, defendants executed a scheme to defraud that stole more than $2.8 million from the elderly and vulnerable victims in the Western District of Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the United States. As part of that scheme, conspirators contacted the victims and falsely told them that they had won a million or multi-million-dollar sweepstakes, but needed to pay certain taxes and fees before they could claim their prize. These claims were often reinforced with forged documents purporting to describe the sweepstakes winnings and required taxes and fees, some of which bore the seals of government agencies. Williams, Plummer, Singh, Murray, and McKenzie all targeted victims in one or more of those ways. The conspirators then directed the victims to send money, including cash, checks, and money orders, to people designated by the conspirators. Some of these people were victims of the lottery scam, who had been unwittingly fooled into accepting and moving money on behalf of the members of the conspiracy. Others, like Byfield and Reid, were members of the conspiracy themselves. After being laundered through a network of bank accounts and money mules, victim money was withdrawn by members of the conspiracy living in Jamaica.

“These defendants allegedly enriched themselves at the expense of elderly victims who believed they had won the lottery,” said U.S. Attorney Olshan. “Protecting our most vulnerable populations from the proliferation of targeted fraud schemes like the one alleged in this case remains a significant priority of our office. We will continue to work with all of our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners in our shared pursuit of justice on behalf of crime victims.”

“Those charged targeted and took advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall. “This was a wide-reaching conspiracy that cost victims millions of dollars. Unfortunately, it’s a crime that is increasing every year, and Pennsylvania remains one of top states in the country that is impacted. The FBI is dedicated to stopping crime groups abroad and here at home who exploit our seniors with financial fraud schemes.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to investigating fraudulent lottery schemes designed to defraud innocent victims,” said Lesley Allison, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge in Pittsburgh. “Combating international fraud schemes is a priority of the Postal Inspection Service particularly since the fraudsters prey on our most vulnerable US citizens. Postal Inspectors will exhaust all efforts to identify and indict those responsible for using the US Mail to facilitate these egregious criminal acts against our seniors.”

“The interagency cooperation throughout this investigation has been exemplary as we all worked toward our common goal of safeguarding our valued seniors,” said Special Agent in Charge of HSI Philadelphia William S. Walker. “We ask the public to do their part in this fight as well. Check-in with senior citizens and loved ones frequently. Ask them about any transactions that may seem out of the ordinary. Together we can help to keep our family and friends financially safe and sound.”

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of twice the pecuniary loss to any victim, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey R. Bengel is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, and United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation leading to the Indictments in this case. They were assisted in the investigation by other domestic and international agencies, including the United States Marshals Service, JOLT Fusion Center, Jamaican Constabulary Force, National Intelligence Bureau, Financial Investigations Division, Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, and Fugitive Apprehension Team. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated December 15, 2023

Topics
Elder Justice
Financial Fraud