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Posted on: September 19, 2023, 09:21h.
Last updated on: September 19, 2023, 09:21h.
Three men from Southern Nevada were sentenced Friday to lengthy prison terms. They were convicted in a multi-million-dollar prize scheme that targeted the elderly and vulnerable, prosecutors revealed.
The defendants were identified as:
- Mario Castro, 55, of Las Vegas, who was sentenced to 20 years.
- Miguel Castro, 58, also of Las Vegas, who was sentenced to 19.5 years.
- And Jose Luis Mendez, 49, of Henderson, who was sentenced to 14 years.
Millions of Mailings
Between 2010 and 2018, the suspects printed and mailed millions of documents from an operation based in a Las Vegas warehouse.
The mailings led the recipients to believe they won a cash prize. The victims had to pay between $20 and $25 to collect the fake prizes.
“Victims who paid the fees did not receive anything of value,” Nevada U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson explained in a statement released on Monday.
Once victims fell prey to the scheme, defendants bombarded them with more fraudulent prize notices.”
The United States Postal Service (USPS) launched an investigation into the scheme.
USPS inspectors were given warrants to search the warehouse. The U.S. Department of Justice also was granted a court order to shut down the fraudulent operation. USPS sent the operators of the scheme cease and desist orders.
Defendants Hid Activities
But they tried to hide their activities and continued to send out the mailings. They even changed the names of the companies, and used straw owners, prosecutors said. But they were indicted in 2019.
The operators of the scheme included several entities such as: Imperial Award Services, Assets Unlimited, Pacific Disbursement Reporting, Special Money Managers, Price Awards and Money Securities, according to the Associated Press.
“For eight years, Mario Castro, Miguel Castro, and Jose Luis Mendez used lies and deceit to steal from the elderly and vulnerable,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in the statement.
“The jury’s verdict and today’s sentences hold them accountable for their predatory conduct. The department is committed to protecting consumers from mass-mailing schemes.”
These defendants took part in a conspiracy that preyed upon and deceived elderly consumers with repeated promises of large cash prizes,” Frierson added.
The AP reported that Attorneys Willliam Brown for Mendez, Joshua Tomsheck for Mario Castro and Lucas Gaffney for Miguel Castro claim their clients are innocent. They will appeal the convictions and sentences, the report added.
Earlier, four other defendants in the case pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. They are Patti Kern, 65, of Henderson; as well as Andrea Burrow, 43; Edgar Del Rio, 45; and Sean O’Connor, 54, each of Las Vegas.