MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A trio of Jamaican nationals were arrested Thursday and charged separately for their roles in a Jamaican-based telemarketing fraud scheme.
Shanice Ethridge, 24, of Broward County, was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, with an enhanced penalty for targeting the elderly.
Mikhail Gorbachev George Williams, 25, of Broward County, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and running an unlicensed money transmitting business.
Fabian Winston Parkinson, 33, of Miami-Dade County, has been charged with mail fraud.
Ethridge, Williams and Parkinson, as reported in the indictments, would call elderly victims in the U.S. and tell them that they had won a lottery or sweepstakes. The three men would allegedly tell the victims they first had to pay taxes, duties or fees to receive their winnings.
The charges stemmed from an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).
“These arrests show that HSI is committed to stopping individuals who prey on our senior citizens,” Special Agent in Charge of HSI Miami Alysa Erichs said in a statement. “We will continue to work with our international partners and other law enforcement agencies to put an end to these criminal organizations.”
The victims said they would receive mail or calls from the trio, who worked out of Jamaica, asking them to send money via wire transfers, cash, checks and/or money orders though the U.S. mail and prepaid debit cards.
Authorities said several elderly victims were scammed out of thousands of dollars to cover the bogus fees, for winnings they would never see.
“We will not allow South Florida to be a pipeline for these money couriers who are the lifeblood of these fraudulent schemes that prey on the elderly and vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. “We are committed to cutting off the money flow by dismantling these fraudulent lottery cells and prosecuting all of those involved, both here and abroad.”
These Jamaican-based sweepstakes scams are nothing new. In March 2009, HSI and the Jamaican Constabulary Force partnered to form Project JOLT to combat the increase of Jamaican-based telemarketing fraud. The swindlers would use several different schemes such as phony inheritances, disaster relief scams, multimillion dollar sweepstakes and more that targeted citizens stateside.