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Feds crack down on Jamaican lottery scams

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The United States Department of Justice says a resident of Florida has pleaded guilty for her role in a Jamaican-based fraudulent lottery scheme.

The DOJ said on Wednesday that Cassandra Althea Palmer, 33, pleaded guilty before US District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

“The Justice Department is committed to combatting international lottery fraud schemes preying on innocent Americans,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The help of a co-conspirator in the United States makes it easier for these international fraud schemes to succeed.

“We will continue to investigate and often prosecute individuals residing in the United States or abroad when they commit fraud against Americans,” Mizer added.

As part of her guilty plea, the government said Palmer agreed that, had the case gone to trial, the United States would have proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” that, “in February 2014, a woman from Worcester County, Maryland, was contacted by an individual in Jamaica and told that she had won a multi-million dollar lottery prize, and that in order to collect her lottery prize, she first had to pay taxes and fees.”

The DOJ said the victim did not win a lottery prize and would not collect any winnings.

“Palmer knew about the fraud scheme and agreed with her co-conspirator in Jamaica to participate in the scheme,” it said, adding that Palmer participated in the fraudulent scheme in a number of ways.

Among other things, the DOJ said she worked with her co-conspirator in Jamaica, to recruit a friend in Maryland to receive $7,500 of the victim’s money.

“She and her friend kept a portion of the money, and Palmer wire transferred the rest to her Jamaican co-conspirator,” the DOJ said.

It said the fraudulent scheme ended when law enforcement officials learned of the fraud.

The DOJ said officials set up a sting, in which an undercover police officer posed as the victim and met Palmer’s friend at a fast food restaurant parking lot in Maryland.

The purpose of the meeting was for the victim to hand over $32,500 in cash to Palmer’s friend in order for the victim to claim her purported lottery winnings, the DOJ said.

It said law enforcement arrested Palmer’s friend on the spot, after she received $32,500 in cash from the officer.

The DOJ said Palmer faces a statutory maximum punishment of 20 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the offense.

Palmer must also pay restitution to the victim, the DOJ said.

It said Palmer’s sentencing is scheduled for March 22, 2017.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is dedicated as part of its mission to ensure that these types of predatory schemes are investigated aggressive­ly,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Antonio J. Gomez of the Miami Division. “It is imperative that we continue to work with our partners, both domestically and internationally, to protect our citizens who fall prey to these schemes so that the U.S. mail isn’t used in furtherance of them.”

The DOJ said this prosecution is part of its effort to work with federal and local law enforcement “to combat fraudulent lottery schemes in Jamaica that prey on American citizens.”

According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Americans have lost tens of millions of dollars to fraudulent foreign lotteries.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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