A Jamaican man pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud charges in a Scranton, Pennsylvania, court in connection with a phony sweepstakes scheme that targeted elderly Americans, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Damone Oakley, 41, pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud after he admitted to attempting to make himself wealthy through a fraudulent sweepstakes scheme targeting elderly and vulnerable Americans. He was extradited to the U.S. from Point District, St. James Parish, Jamaica, to face the charges.
The scheme involved telling people they won millions of dollars and luxury vehicles in sweepstakes, but had to pay taxes and fees in order to claim their winnings.
Oakley used the postal service, text messages or phone calls to contact his victims under different names, like "Officer Alex Logan" and "Officer Stan Valentine."
The fraudulent payments requested by Oakley would be sent directly to him via a wire transfer, direct bank deposit, through the postal service or private commercial mail carriers. In some instances, Oakley would have the money sent to others in the U.S. and elsewhere who then transferred the money to him.
In addition to sending cash or wire transfers, some victims were also told to buy electronics, jewelry and clothing, which were sent to Oakley in Jamaica through mail forwarding services in Florida.
The DOJ said Oakley scammed "the most vulnerable people in our society" out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"Today’s guilty plea reflects our office’s commitment to protecting elderly victims and punishing individuals who engage in this type of behavior," U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said in a statement on Wednesday.
Eric Shen, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) Criminal Investigations Group, reiterated Karam's sentiments, adding that Wednesday's plea agreement exemplifies the group's commitment to "investigating scammers, domestically and internationally, who use the U.S. mail to enrich themselves by targeting and financially exploiting vulnerable American consumers, including the elderly."
The case was investigated by the USPIS with assistance from the DOJ's Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Marshals. Law enforcement partners in Jamaica helped to secure Oakley's arrest and extradition.
"Oakley was the first individual whose extradition was requested by the United States under Jamaica’s revised Extradition Act, and we are confident that we will continue our efforts to root out fraud that targets vulnerable consumers, wherever the fraudsters are located," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
The DOJ said it has a help hotline available for people over the age of 60 who have fallen victim to financial fraud. It can be reached seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET at 1-833-372-8311.