The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) says a grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia has returned an indictment charging a Jamaican citizen who was residing in Virginia in connection with the operation of a fraudulent lottery scheme.
The DOJ said Carlos O’Brian Ricketts, 31, was arrested on Nov. 4 on a criminal complaint based on his participation in the lottery scheme.
The indictment announced over the weekend supersedes the charge in the criminal complaint against Ricketts.
The DOJ said Ricketts is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, four counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 18 counts of money laundering.
If convicted, Ricketts faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count, the DOJ said.
As alleged in the indictment, a co-conspirator induced elderly victims in the United States to send thousands of dollars to Ricketts to cover fees for purported lottery winnings that in fact victims had not won.
The DOJ said the indictment is part of the government’s crackdown on fraudulent lottery schemes based in Jamaica that target elderly victims in the United States.
“Co-conspirators in the United States are often key players in lottery schemes operating from foreign countries,” said Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute those who facilitate these pernicious schemes.”
From May 2010, Ricketts’ co-conspirator is alleged to have contacted elderly victims in the United States, claimed to represent a known U.S. sweepstakes company and falsely informed the victims that they had won thousands or millions of dollars in a lottery.
The co-conspirator allegedly told the victims to make payments of several thousand dollars in order to collect their purported prize winnings and instructed the victims to send and wire this money to Ricketts in Virginia, the DOJ said.
The indictment charges that Ricketts received this money, kept a portion of the money for himself and sent the remainder to individuals in Jamaica.
According to the indictment, Ricketts sometimes sent the victims’ money to Jamaica in smaller, separate payments to the same person in Jamaica during a short period of time.
The indictment also alleges that Ricketts sometimes used the alias Kevin Brown when receiving money from victims and sending money to Jamaica.
The indictment further alleges that Ricketts used different addresses to conceal his identity. The victims never received any lottery winnings.
“Participants in international lottery frauds cannot seek shelter in the Western District of Virginia,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy for the Western District of Virginia. “We will bring those responsible to justice.”
“HSI has disrupted multiple lottery scams across the globe,” said Special Agent in Charge Clark E. Settles of HSI Washington, D.C., which oversees the agency’s Harrisonburg office. “The indictment of this individual marks yet another step against alleged con-artists who prey on elderly U.S. citizens.”