If you ever wonder who’s behind those incredibly ill-timed and persistent “You’ve won a million dollar prize!” calls you get at dinner time – and what happens to the money your aunt Jen sent off to “that nice young man with the cute Jamaican accent” – here’s one piece of the puzzle.
Released today by the U.S. Department of Justice:
A California woman was sentenced to 130 months in prison for her role in a half-million dollar Costa Rica-based “sweepstakes fraud” scheme that victimized hundreds of U.S. residents.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the Western District of North Carolina made the announcement.
Patricia Diane Clark, 57, of Sacramento, California, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney of the Western District of North Carolina for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Clark was also ordered to pay $642,032 in restitution and to forfeit the same amount jointly and severally with her co-defendants.
In connection with her guilty plea, Clark admitted that, from approximately 2007 through February 2013, her co-conspirators called U.S. residents from Costa Rican call centers, falsely informing them that they had won a substantial cash prize in a “sweepstakes.” The victims, many of whom were elderly, were told that in order to receive the prize, they had to send money for a purported “refundable insurance fee.” Clark admitted that she picked up money from the victims and sent it to her co-conspirators in Costa Rica. Clark also admitted that she managed others who picked up money from the victims in the United States and that she kept a portion of the victims’ payments.
Clark also admitted that, once the victims sent money, her co-conspirators contacted the individuals again and falsely informed them that the prize amount had increased, either because of a clerical error or because another prize winner was disqualified. The victims then had to send additional money to pay for new purported fees to receive the now larger sweepstakes prize. The attempts to collect additional money from the victims continued until an individual either ran out of money or discovered the fraudulent nature of the scheme.
Clark admitted that, along with her co-conspirators, she was responsible for approximately $640,000 in losses to more than a hundred U.S. citizens.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service, FBI, Federal Trade Commission and Department of Homeland Security. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Patrick M. Donley and Trial Attorney William H. Bowne of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.