Sentencing in Multi-Million Dollar Prize Scheme Targeting Elderly and Vulnerable
Posted on: September 19, 2023, 09:21h.
Last updated on: September 19, 2023, 09:21h.
Three men from Southern Nevada were handed significant prison sentences after being found guilty of orchestrating a multi-million-dollar prize scheme that specifically targeted the elderly and vulnerable, according to prosecutors.
The convicted individuals have been identified as:
- Mario Castro, 55, of Las Vegas, sentenced to 20 years.
- Miguel Castro, 58, also of Las Vegas, sentenced to 19.5 years.
- Jose Luis Mendez, 49, of Henderson, sentenced to 14 years.
Each defendant was found guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud following a jury trial in April. The fraudulent scheme reportedly defrauded victims of over $10 million.
The Power of Mailings
From 2010 to 2018, the accused printed and sent out millions of documents from a Las Vegas warehouse, luring the recipients into believing they had won a cash prize. To collect the fake prizes, victims were required to pay between $20 and $25.
“Those who paid the fees received nothing of value,” stated Nevada U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson in a released statement on Monday.
Once victims fell prey to the scheme, defendants bombarded them with more fraudulent prize notices.”
An investigation into the scheme was launched by the United States Postal Service (USPS). USPS inspectors were granted warrants to search the warehouse, while the U.S. Department of Justice obtained a court order to shut down the illegitimate operation. USPS also sent cease and desist orders to the scheme’s operators.
Attempts to Conceal
Despite efforts to conceal their activities and alter the company names using straw owners, the defendants continued to send out mailings. However, they were indicted in 2019.
The scheme operated under several entities, including Imperial Award Services, Assets Unlimited, Pacific Disbursement Reporting, Special Money Managers, Price Awards, and Money Securities, according to the Associated Press.
“For eight years, Mario Castro, Miguel Castro, and Jose Luis Mendez used lies and deceit to steal from the elderly and vulnerable,” stated Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
These defendants took part in a conspiracy that preyed upon and deceived elderly consumers with repeated promises of large cash prizes,” Frierson added.
According to the AP, attorneys William Brown, Joshua Tomsheck, and Lucas Gaffney, representing Mendez, Mario Castro, and Miguel Castro respectively, claim their clients are innocent and plan to appeal the convictions and sentences.
In earlier developments, four other defendants in the case pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. They are Patti Kern, 65, of Henderson, as well as Andrea Burrow, 43, Edgar Del Rio, 45, and Sean O’Connor, 54, all from Las Vegas.