Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Florida woman pleads guilty to fraud charges in Jamaican lottery scheme

Published:Wednesday | December 7, 2016 | 2:14 PM

A 33-year-old Florida woman has pleaded guilty to lottery scamming charges in a scheme with Jamaican links.

Cassandra Althea Palmer, pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with a fraudulent lottery scheme. 

She faces a statutory maximum punishment of 20 years in prison, and a fine of US$250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the offence.

Palmer must also pay restitution to the victim.

She is to be sentenced on March 22 next year.

Palmer was charged on October 26 with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

In February 2014, a woman from Worcester County, Maryland, was contacted by an individual in Jamaica and told that she had won a multi-million 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 in a number of ways.

Among other things, she worked with her co-conspirator in Jamaica, to recruit a friend in Maryland to receive US$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 learned 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 arrested Palmer’s friend on the spot, after she received $32,500 in cash from the under cover officer.

"The Justice Department is committed to combating international lottery fraud schemes preying on innocent Americans," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

"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."

This prosecution is part of the Department of Justice’s effort to work with federal and local law enforcement to combat fraudulent lottery schemes in Jamaica that prey on American citizens.

According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Americans have lost tens of millions of dollars to fraudulent foreign lotteries.