Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Florida woman linked to J'can lottery scam to be sentenced

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM

A resident of Florida who helped Jamaicans to stage a lottery fraud scheme that robs United States residents of thousands of dollars has been nabbed by law-enforcement personnel of the US.

The Department of Justice reported yesterday that Cassandra Althea Palmer, a 33-year-old resident of Florida, pleaded guilty for her role in a Jamaican-based fraudulent lottery scheme. She pleaded guilty before US District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with a fraudulent lottery scheme. An information was filed on October 26, charging Palmer with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

"The Justice Department is committed to combating international lottery fraud schemes preying on innocent Americans," a release from the Department of Justice quoted Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer as saying. "The help of a co-conspirator in the United States makes it easier for these international fraud schemes to succeed. We will continue to investigate and often prosecute individuals residing in the United States or abroad when they commit fraud against Americans," said Mizer, who is head of the Justice Department's Civil Division.

As part of her guilty plea, Palmer agreed that had the case gone to trial, the United States would have proved the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt: In February 2014, a woman from Worcester County, Maryland, was contacted by an individual in Jamaica and told that she had won a multimillion-dollar lottery prize and that in order to collect her lottery prize, she first had to pay taxes and fees. The victim did not win a lottery prize and would not collect any winnings. Palmer knew about the fraud scheme and agreed with her co-conspirator in Jamaica to participate in the scheme. Palmer participated in the fraudulent scheme in a number of ways. Among other things, she worked with her co-conspirator in Jamaica to recruit a friend in Maryland to receive $7,500 of the victim's money. She and her friend kept a portion of the money, and Palmer wire-transferred the rest to her Jamaican co-conspirator.

The fraudulent scheme ended when law-enforcement officials learnt of the fraud. Officials set up a sting in which an undercover police officer posed as the victim and met Palmer's friend at a fast-food restaurant parking lot in Maryland. The purpose of the meeting was for the victim to hand over US$32,500 in cash to Palmer's friend in order for the victim to claim her purported lottery winnings. Law-enforcement officials arrested Palmer's friend on the spot after she received US$32,500 in cash from the officer.

Palmer faces a statutory maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of US$250,000. She must also pay restitution to the victim. Palmer's sentencing is scheduled for March 22, 2017.