Lottery Scam Victims and International Lotto Arrests
09/08 - Guy Mayo, Elad Mayo, Asi Almakias, Moran Goldfarb, Lior Orgad, Orelya Belahsan, David Yamin, Mor Galanti and Yaniv Kalbers, all residents of Israel, were arrested today on charges that they engaged in a lottery telemarketing fraud scheme which obtained approximately $2 million from elderly victims in the United States between 2007 and September 2008, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael J. Garcia and the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI New York Field Office Mark J. Mershon announced.
This case involves the largest number of Israeli citizens ever to be provisionally arrested by Israel in anticipation of extradition. Shai Kadosh, who is also charged in the scheme, is currently a fugitive.
According to the indictments filed in this case in Manhattan federal court, the defendants participated in a fraudulent scheme in which hundreds of elderly victims in the United States were informed that they had won substantial cash prizes in an international sweepstakes lottery, but that to claim these prizes, they first needed to pay several thousand dollars in fees.
In fact, there was no sweepstakes lottery and the victims never received any cash prize, even after many victims sent as much as tens of thousands of dollars to the defendants and their co-conspirators in Israel.
As part of this scheme, the defendants operated a "boiler room" in Israel. Orelya Belahsan, David Yamin, Mor Galanti and Yaniv Kalbers were salespeople in the boiler room, calling individuals in the United States and informing them that they had won substantial cash prizes in an international sweepstakes lottery.
These salespeople asked victims certain questions about their citizenship, age and financial condition. If a salesperson deemed a victim to have sufficient assets, the salesperson transferred that victim to one of the managers: Guy Mayo, Elad Mayo, Asi Almakias, Shai Kadosh, Moran Goldfarb or Lior Orgad.
Once a victim was transferred, he or she was informed by the managers that to obtain the prize, one first had to pay several thousand dollars in fees and taxes. The victim was then instructed to send the money to the co-conspirators in Israel by wire transfer or by mail, and was provided with toll free "1-800" numbers at which the managers could be contacted to confirm that the money had been sent.
Victims who had already sent money were often contacted again by the managers to send additional money to claim their prizes.
"The defendants preyed upon the elderly in the United States from what they believed to be the safety of a boiler room in Israel," said U.S. Attorney Garcia. "Cooperation between law enforcement and prosecutors' offices here and in Israel has made clear that borders provide no safe haven for such fraudulent schemes."
"Foreign lottery and sweepstakes frauds are especially pernicious because they target a vulnerable segment of our population. No one should underestimate the pitchmen in these schemes, who can be as persuasive as they are unethical. We only hope this investigation serves as a warning to others that operating from outside the U.S. does not necessarily make you unreachable," said FBI Assistant Director Mershon.
The investigation into the lottery telemarketing fraud scheme is being conducted in New York by the FBI, in cooperation with the Israel National Police. U.S. Attorney Garcia praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Tel Aviv Fraud Division of the Israel National Police, and expressed his gratitude to the Office of International Affairs, Department of Justice Criminal Division; Department of International Affairs within the Office of the State Attorney in the Ministry of Justice for the State of Israel; and the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office for their cooperation in the investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by the Organized Crimes Unit at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Avi Weitzman and Steve C. Lee are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice
Lottery Scam Victim Loses Western Union Transfer After Cashing Counterfeit Check
06/06 - Florida -- A Port Charlotte man told police he lost $2,400 in a scam after a lottery-related check cleared his bank.
Gomez Guadalupe, 46, told authorities that on June 1 he received a letter in the mail from Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation in Canada informing him that he had won $240,000 in the North American Sweepstakes Lottery.
Enclosed with the letter was a $2,945 check that he was to deposit into his bank account to expedite the process, the police report said.
The letter asked him to wire $2,400 in cash via Western Union to David Lopez of 123 Main St. in Ajax, Canada, to pay for the taxes on his winnings.
Guadalupe told police that he checked with Wachovia Bank, where he deposited the money, to make sure the Ontario Lottery $2,945 check had cleared. He said a bank representative told him it had.
He then withdrew $2,400 on June 6 and sent the money via Western Union to Lopez.
On June 13, the bank informed Guadalupe that the $2,945 check he had deposited was canceled and that he owed the bank the money he had withdrawn, the police report said.
Guadalupe told police that Wachovia closed his account, and now he has had to set up a payment plan to pay the bank the money he owes.
The bank told Guadalupe he had fallen victim to a lottery scam, according to police report.
Guadalupe told police that he had not tried calling anyone at the so-called lottery office before he wired the money and that the phone numbers provided to him are no good.