Posted on: February 13, 2023, 06:47h.
Last updated on: February 13, 2023, 06:47h.
It’s one of the oldest scams in the book, but one that still snags countless people every year. A lottery “winner” is required to pay upfront to receive the money, and a Jamaican national who used the formula to steal millions is now in US custody following his extradition from Panama.
Adrian Lawrence, AKA the “Mastermind,” was shipped off to the US last week, having allegedly stolen tens of millions from the elderly through a lottery scam. After he landed, he appeared in federal court in New York on six charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud.
Lawrence and his gang reportedly ran their operation for years, and it’s possible there are more victims than prosecutors realize. Lawrence is looking at up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
You’re a Publishers Clearing House Winner
Panamanian authorities extradited Lawrence to the US on February 8 following his arrest in the Central American country last month. The indictment and court documents state that Lawrence and his group engaged in a telephone and email scam between October 2013 and April 2020 to defraud elderly Americans.
By lying to the targets that they had won some type of competition, the criminal empire deceived them into sending it money. The scammers told their victims that they had won Publishers Clearing House (PCH) prizes and even told them they won lotteries federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission had offered.
The 31-year-old Lawrence allegedly told the victims that they had to send money to different banks he had set up across the country in order to cover the processing and shipping fees of the winnings. His conspirators, who weren’t named in the indictment, set up and maintained the bank accounts. They then kept a percentage of the money as their payment.
There are at least 50 people, whose average age is 81, who sent Lawrence and his followers over $6 million, according to the Department of Justice. Lawrence used a variety of aliases, email addresses and phone numbers to carry out the scam.
Oldest Trick In The Book
PCH has been around since the early 1950s and its sweepstakes arrived in 1967. It didn’t take long for fraudsters to determine how to manipulate it to their advantage.
Through today, despite having been around for over 50 years, people still fall for the scam. The Internet has made it easier for criminals to act, now able to contact potential victims anonymously through email.
PCH alleges that it has legitimately given away over $315 million in cash since its first sweepstakes. That’s part of the reason the scammers continue to be successful.
In addition to losing money, some victims also become targets of identity theft, duped into turning over their social security numbers and other personal data. The PCH scam is one of the most successful because it banks on the supposed legitimacy of the actual PCH sweepstakes.
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reports that the scam is on the rise once again. As of last September, it saw an increase of 240% in PCH fraud cases.
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