One of the many common frauds we hear about at BBB is the “lottery scam,” where victims are told they have won a fantastic prize but they must prepay taxes or other fees before claiming their winnings. Today, there are two fewer lottery scammers preying on victims; the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) just arrested two Floridians who bilked elderly victims out of money through a fraudulent international lottery scheme. Following a grand jury indictment, Althea Angela Peart and Charmaine Anne King were arrested this morning on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and telephone fraud.
“Operators of foreign lottery schemes often cannot succeed without the assistance of co-conspirators in the United States,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “These schemes can cause devastating financial harm to their victims, and the Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting those who engage in this criminal activity.”
According to a DOJ press release:
From March 2012, [scammers] are alleged to have contacted victims in the U.S. and falsely informed them that they had won more than a million dollars in a lottery. According to the indictment, the co-conspirators sent letters to the victims from a purported sweepstakes company in the U.S. and included false and fraudulent cashier’s checks made out to the victims for thousands of dollars. As alleged in the indictment, these letters told victims to call “claims agents” who were actually co-conspirators, and when the victims called the purported claims agents, the agents informed the victims that they had to pay several thousand dollars in order to collect their purported lottery winnings. The claims agents allegedly told the victims to deposit the cashier’s checks in the victims’ bank accounts in order to purportedly cover the money they had to pay. The co-conspirators allegedly instructed the victims on how to send and wire this money to Peart and King. The indictment charges that Peart and King each kept a percentage of the money they received from victims and sent the rest of the money to their co-conspirators. According to the indictment, because the cashier’s checks were false and fraudulent and had no value, any payments the victims sent to Peart and King were funded by their own money, and victims never received any lottery winnings.
This is a common scenario. BBB warns you should be wary of anyone who contacts you regarding lottery or sweepstakes winnings, and never send money via wire service to someone you do not know. Also, always wait to be absolutely certain a check or cashier’s check has cleared and the funds are available before writing checks or wiring money from your account…for any reason.
The full story is available on the DOJ website.
To learn more about scams, report a scam, or sign up for BBB Scam Alerts, go to BBB Scam Stopper.