Las Vegas-Based $10M Mail Fraud Leads to Prison Sentences

Posted on: September 19, 2023, 09:21h. 

Last updated on: September 19, 2023, 12:19h.

Three men from Southern Nevada were sentenced Friday to lengthy prison terms. They were convicted in a multimillion-dollar prize scheme that targeted the elderly and vulnerable, prosecutors revealed.

Jason Frierson
Jason Frierson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada, pictured above. On Monday, he announced three prison sentences for a mail fraud scheme. (Image: Nevada Independent)

The defendants were identified as:

  • Mario Castro, 55, of Las Vegas, who was sentenced to 20 years
  • Miguel Castro, 58, also of Las Vegas, who was sentenced to 19.5 years
  • And Jose Luis Mendez, 49, of Henderson, who was sentenced to 14 years

Each man was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud following a jury trial in April. Their plot reportedly defrauded victims of more than $10M.

Millions of Mailings

Between 2010 and 2018, the suspects printed and mailed millions of documents from an operation based in a Las Vegas warehouse.

The mailings led the recipients to believe they had won a cash prize. The victims had to pay between $20 and $25 to collect the fake prizes.

“Victims who paid the fees did not receive anything of value,” Nevada U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson explained in a statement released on Monday.

Once victims fell prey to the scheme, defendants bombarded them with more fraudulent prize notices.”

The United States Postal Service (USPS) launched an investigation into the scheme and USPS inspectors were given warrants to search the warehouse. The U.S. Department of Justice also was granted a court order to shut down the fraudulent operation. USPS sent the operators of the scheme cease and desist orders.

Defendants Hid Activities

The defendants tried to hide their activities and continued to send out the mailings, going so far as to change the names of the companies they used and using straw owners, prosecutors said. Even so, they were indicted in 2019.

The operators of the scheme included several entities, such as 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,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in the statement.

“The jury’s verdict and today’s sentences hold them accountable for their predatory conduct. The department is committed to protecting consumers from mass-mailing schemes.”

These defendants took part in a conspiracy that preyed upon and deceived elderly consumers with repeated promises of large cash prizes,” Frierson added.

The Associated Press reported that Attorneys Willliam Brown for Mendez, Joshua Tomsheck for Mario Castro, and Lucas Gaffney for Miguel Castro claim their clients are innocent. They will appeal the convictions and sentences, the report added.

Earlier, four other defendants in the case pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. They are Patti Kern, 65, of Henderson, Andrea Burrow, 43, Edgar Del Rio, 45, and Sean O’Connor, 54, each of Las Vegas.