MANHATTAN (CN) – Twelve people have been arrested in Israel and charged with targeting elderly people in the United States in a $25 million phony lottery scheme. The gang selected victims by buying information from brokers who sold lists of people who subscribed to sweepstakes lotteries, federal prosecutors said.
The boiler room operation then called the old folks and said they had won a prize, but had to pay “several thousands of dollars in fees and taxes” to get it, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The gang allegedly had phony attorneys call their victims to hit them up for the money. The phony attorneys used the “law office” names “Abrahams Kline,” “Bernstein Schwartz,” “Steiner, Van Allen, and Colt,” “Bloomberg and
Associates,” and “Meyer Stevens,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The supposed lotteries were called “Clearinghouse Sweepstakes,” “Consumers Clearinghouse,” and other names.
Sometimes the alleged crooks sent “flowers and gift baskets” to victims, to “congratulate” them for their purported winnings.
Suckers who sent the money were contacted again and told to send more money, until the sums added up, at times, to “tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars,” prosecutors said.
“In reality, there was no lottery prize and the victims were ultimately bilked out of an estimated total of approximately $25 million,” prosecutors said.
Each defendant is charged with conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Eleven of them were arrested on Tuesday; one – Matthew Getto – has been in U.S. custody since the FBI arrested him on July 4 at Newark International Airport.
Arrested Tuesday in Israel on a U.S. extradition request and superseding indictment were Avi Ayache, Michelle Yuval, Yaron Bar, Gillian Rosenberg, Toshin Charles Samuels, Oshrat Portolyoni, Naor Green, Yulia Rayz, Limor Cohen, Ian Kaye and Avi Perov. Many of them used aliases, as did Getto, prosecutors said.