News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Mon. Oct. 6, 2014: Three Jamaican nationals and residents of South Florida are currently behind bars after being charged separately for their roles in a Jamaican-based telemarketing fraud scheme.
Shanice Ethridge, 24, of Broward County remains at the Paul Rein Detention Facility after being charged late last week with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, with an enhanced penalty for targeting the elderly.
Mikhail Gorbachev George Williams, 25, of Broward County, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and running an unlicensed money transmitting business while Fabian Winston Parkinson, 33, of Miami-Dade County, has been charged with mail fraud. Both also remain behind bars.
According to the indictments, Ethridge, Williams and Parkinson participated in fraudulent lottery schemes emanating from Jamaica, in which elderly victims throughout the United States were told that they had won a lottery or a sweepstakes but first had to pay taxes, duties or fees on their supposed winnings in order to receive their prize. These elderly victims were induced to send thousands of dollars to cover bogus fees, taxes and insurance for lottery winnings they had not won.
The co-conspirators and co-schemers also allegedly sent letters and made multiple telephone calls to the victims claiming to be from a purported sweepstakes/lottery company in the United States. As alleged in the indictment, the victims were told that they had to pay several thousand dollars in order to collect their purported winnings. The co-conspirators and co-schemers allegedly told the victims to make payments to either Ethridge, Williams or Parkinson in order to receive their winnings. Ethridge, Williams and Parkinson received the money either by wire transfers, cash, money orders and checks though the U.S. mail and prepaid debit cards.
“We will not allow South Florida to be a pipeline for these money couriers who are the lifeblood of these fraudulent schemes that prey on the elderly and vulnerable,” said United States Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. “We are committed to cutting off the money flow by dismantling these fraudulent lottery cells and prosecuting all of those involved, both here and abroad.”
“Combating scammers who target senior citizens is a priority for the Postal Inspection Service” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge in Miami Ronald Verrochio. “Aside from enforcement; we are also actively taking steps to educate elderly Americans about the dangers of lottery frauds.”
“These arrests show that HSI is committed to stopping individuals who prey on our senior citizens,” said Special Agent in Charge of HSI Miami Alysa D. Erichs. “We will continue to work with our international partners and other law enforcement agencies to put an end to these criminal organizations.”
“The Martin County Sheriff’s Office is proud to be part of the team bringing scam artists such as these to justice,” said Martin County Sheriff William D. Snyder. “These scammers who prey on our seniors in Martin County and elsewhere cannot be allowed to continue. These arrests are a testament to our joint efforts with our law enforcement’s partners at the state, local and federal levels.”
Jamaican-based sweepstakes scams are nothing new. In March 2009, HSI and the Jamaican Constabulary Force partnered to form Project JOLT to combat the increase of Jamaican-based telemarketing fraud. The swindlers would use several different schemes such as phony inheritances, disaster relief scams, multimillion dollar sweepstakes and more that targeted citizens stateside.