Lottery Scam Leads to Indictments Across the US and Jamaica

Posted on: December 18, 2023, 06:41h. 

Last updated on: December 18, 2023, 12:20h.

In the latest crackdown on international fraud, seven individuals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, Pa. They make up a group that targeted unsuspecting Americans through a wide-ranging lottery scam run out of Jamaica.

A man in handcuffs
A man in handcuffs. Federal authorities in the U.S. have issued indictments against a group of people in Jamaica and the U.S. accused of lottery fraud. (Image: Pexels)

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh announced the indictments on Friday. It explained that the defendants operated a sophisticated scheme that involved contacting victims and falsely informing them that they had won a significant amount of money in a sweepstakes.

To claim their prize, the victims were told they needed to pay various taxes and fees, often supported by forged documents bearing the seals of government agencies. The scam worked for a while, allegedly netting the group at least $2.8 million.

The Players

Among the alleged criminals are Jason Plummer, Troy Williams, and Tajay Singh, all from Jamaica, who allegedly targeted victims using various methods, including phone calls, emails, and fake websites. They directed victims to send money –including cash, checks, and money orders — to designated individuals to start the lottery claim process.

The Jamaican trio were the alleged masterminds, but they didn’t act alone. The U.S. Department of Justice also revealed indictments against Tashane Murray of Miramar, Fla; Clevon McKenzie of Mount Vernon, NY; Gyzzell Byfield of Bridgeport, Conn., and Daneil Reid of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Some of these money mules were unsuspecting victims themselves who had been deceived into facilitating the transfer of funds on behalf of the scammers. Others, including Byfield and Reid, willingly participated in the scheme, actively receiving and laundering stolen funds.

The illicit proceeds were then channeled through a network of bank accounts and money mules, eventually reaching the hands of the masterminds in Jamaica. Authorities believe that the gang used the stolen funds to maintain lavish lifestyles and further their criminal activities.

The FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Homeland Security Investigations played crucial roles in dismantling the scam, according to the press release. They also received assistance from various domestic and international agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service, the Jamaican Constabulary Force, the National Intelligence Bureau, and others.

The Charges

The charges against the individuals include conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. The maximum penalty for each of these offenses is 20 years in prison, according to the press release, a fine of twice the financial loss to any victim, or both.

A recent report by the Cybercrime Support Network showed that lottery scams are still functioning well in the U.S. Citing data from the Better Business Bureau, the report indicated that more than 460K Americans have been victims of lottery-related scams in the past three years. During that time, the victims lost more than $330 million to the fraudsters.

The Federal Trade Commission reported earlier this year that overall, U.S. consumers lost $8.8 billion to fraud and scams last year. That was a 30% increase over 2021, with lottery and sweepstakes scams ranking fifth of all fraud categories.

Investment scams topped the list, stealing more than $3.8 billion.