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2 south Fla. residents arrested in connection with international lottery scam

MIAMI – Two south Florida residents were arrested Monday for their roles in a fraudulent lottery scam. The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Althea Angela Peart, 53, of Miami Gardens, and Charmaine Anne King, 51, of Lauderdale Lakes, are charged with using telemarketing to commit conspiracy, along with multiple counts of mail and wire fraud.

Beginning in March 2012, Peart and King’s co-conspirators, some of whom operated outside of the United States, allegedly contacted victims in the United States and falsely informed them they had won more than a million dollars in a lottery. According to the indictment, the co-conspirators sent letters to the victims from a purported sweepstakes company in the United States and included false and fraudulent cashier’s checks made out to the victims for thousands of dollars. As alleged in the indictment, these letters told victims to call claims agents who were actually co-conspirators. When the victims called the purported claims agents, the agents informed the victims they had to pay several thousand dollars in order to collect their purported lottery winnings. The co-conspirators allegedly instructed the victims on how to send and wire this money to Peart and King.

"As fraudsters from outside of the United States seek to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable in our community, they rely on co-conspirators in the United States for help," said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo A. Ferrer. "As I have previously stated, we will continue to vigorously pursue and prosecute those responsible for these illegal schemes."

"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 U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to investigating fraudulent lottery schemes designed to defraud innocent victims," said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge in Miami Ronald Verrochio. "Combating international lottery fraud is a priority of the Postal Inspection Service given that a significant amount of the money in these frauds is sent through the U.S. mail. We are actively taking steps to educate Americans about the dangers of lottery frauds."

"The U.S. Marshals Service is proud to be part of the team bringing scam artists such as these to justice," said Acting U.S. Marshal Neil DeSousa. "These international lottery scams that prey on our elderly cannot be allowed to continue. The arrests of these two perpetrators are a testament to federal law enforcement’s dedication to protecting our citizens against all types of crimes."

"Operators of foreign lottery schemes often cannot succeed without the assistance of co-conspirators in the United States," said Stuart F. Delery, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. "These schemes can cause devastating financial harm to their victims, and the Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting those who engage in this criminal activity."

Consumers should report telemarketing fraud, including fraud originating from Jamaica, to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or online.