US national convicted in Jamaican lottery fraud scheme

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A United states federal jury has convicted a Providence, Rhode Island woman for her participation in a Jamaican lottery fraud scheme.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said that Melinda Bulgin, 28, was convicted on conspiracy and substantive mail fraud and wire fraud charges, as well as one count of money laundering conspiracy. She will be sentenced at a later date.
The scheme affected about 100 identified victims with reported losses estimated at more than US$6.7 million.
The court heard that Bulgin worked with members of a Jamaican lottery fraud conspiracy in the United States and Jamaica, and had multiple roles in the scheme.
The DOJ said the scheme’s conspirators, located in Jamaica, purchased lists containing information about US citizens, and contacted them over the phone.
They told victims they had won large cash prizes and cars, but would need to pay taxes and fees in order to receive the prize, the DOJ said, adding that the scammers deliberately targeted victims over the age of 55.
Some victims lost their savings, their life insurance and their homes before running out of money and turning to public or family assistance, the DOJ said, adding that victims lost anywhere from US$200 to more than US$100,000.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Bulgin participated in the scheme via several roles: by buying the names of future victims to call, by collecting checks and cash from victims at her home address, and via wire transfers victims sent to her bank accounts.
She also sent fraudulent mailings, such as letters and photos of the fake checks, to victims to convince them of their prize, the DOJ said, adding that she was caught while carrying US$14,800 to Jamaica to share with her conspirators.
“Melinda Bulgin and her co-conspirators deliberately targeted senior citizens as part of a lottery fraud scheme that affected dozens of victims, some of whom lost their life savings, life insurance, and even their homes,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“The conviction in this case is the result of the hard work and determination of our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners, along with the prosecutors in the District of North Dakota and Criminal Division—and it demonstrates our firm commitment to stopping those who exploit senior citizens and other vulnerable populations,” he added.
The DOJ said the government’s case included testimony by an FBI case agent who traced victim money from around the country to Bulgin, several American and Jamaican co-operators, one of whom was extradited from Jamaica.
A Jamaican law officer who questioned Bulgin when she landed in Jamaica from the United States with US$14,800 in cash also testified at trial.
In addition to Bulgin, the DOJ said 14 other defendants from Jamaica and the United States were charged in the same indictment, many of whom have pleaded guilty.
The Jamaican lottery fraud scheme is listed in the United States as a Top International Criminal Organization Target (TICOT), the DOJ said.
Nationwide, it said the number of Jamaican Lottery Fraud victims is in the millions, with some estimates of annual losses in excess of one billion US dollars.

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