(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – A 41-year-old Jamaican has been sentenced to 16 years in jail for his role in a fraudulent sweepstakes scheme that targeted elderly victims in the United States.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) says Damone Oakley pleaded guilty in July 2023 to two counts of mail and two counts of wire fraud. Oakley, of St James, had been extradited to the United States in 2022.
The DOJ said that from at least 2010 through 2019, Oakley participated in a fraudulent sweepstakes scheme that targeted elderly and vulnerable victims.
It said his victims received mailings, text messages or phone calls in which they were falsely told that they had won millions of dollars and luxury vehicles in sweepstakes, but first needed to pay taxes and fees to claim their winnings.
The DOJ said Oakley used phoney names during the scheme, including “Officer Alex Logan” and “Officer Stan Valentine,” and instructed his victims on how to send their money, and to whom the funds should be sent.
His victims were located throughout the United States, and used wire transfers, direct bank deposits, the US Postal Service and private commercial mail carriers to send money directly to Oakley as well as to individuals in the United States and elsewhere who served as intermediaries and transmitted the money to Oakley, the DOJ said.
In addition to sending cash or wire transfers, it said Oakley’s victims were directed to purchase electronics, jewelry and clothing, which were sent to mail forwarding services in Florida, and then on to Oakley in Jamaica..
The victims never received any “winnings,” said the DOJ, adding that Oakley’s victims lost hundreds of thousands of dollars during the scheme.
“The Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and its law enforcement partners will vigorously pursue individuals who prey on vulnerable and elderly victims through fraudulent schemes,” said principal deputy assistant attorney general Brian M Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
“Through our National Elder Fraud Hotline, we identify perpetrators of these schemes and prioritize the pursuit of those who deliberately target vulnerable consumers, who often can least afford to sustain financial losses.”
US Attorney Gerard M. Karam said “This sentence reflects our office’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable members of our society and punishing those who engage in this type of behaviour.
“Working together with our skilled and dedicated law enforcement partners, Oakley was held accountable for his crimes,” he added.
Inspector in Charge Eric Shen, of the US Postal Inspection Services (USPIS) Criminal Investigations Group, said “There was a time when scammers operating beyond our borders felt they could operate with impunity. Those days are gone.
“Postal inspectors track down these scammers no matter where they are. And with our Department of Justice partners’ extradition powers, scammers are brought to the United States to face the music. In this case, it’s to the tune of 192 months in prison.”