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Financial Crimes

Man arrested in connection with Jamaican lottery scam

MIAMI – A Jamaican man was arrested Tuesday and charged with participating in a telemarketing conspiracy and committing 37 counts of wire fraud. 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 and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Oneike Mickhale Barnett, 27, and his co-conspirators ran a lottery scam in Jamaica that fraudulently induced elderly victims in the United States to send them thousands of dollars to cover fees for lottery winnings that the victims had not in fact won. Beginning in October 2008, Barnett and his co-conspirators allegedly made calls from Jamaica to victims using voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Using VoIP, the telephone calls appeared to originate from a U.S. area code. Once Barnett and his co-conspirators made contact with the victims, they would inform the victims they had won cash and prizes. Then, they would persuade the victims to send thousands of dollars in fees to release the money. The victims never received cash or prizes. According to the indictment, Barnett and his co-conspirators convinced victims to send money to middlemen in South Florida, who forwarded the money to Jamaica.

"These individuals are preying on some of the most vulnerable members in our communities," said Alysa D. Erichs, special agent in charge of HSI Miami. "We will continue to work with our partners in Jamaica and other law enforcement agencies to put these criminal enterprises out of business."

"This arrest highlights the joint effort between U.S. and Jamaican law enforcement to prosecute those who prey on our nation’s senior citizens." said Ronald Verrochio, inspector in charge for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. "The mission of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is to protect consumers by ensuring the nation’s mail system is not used as a tool for fraud."

"The U.S. Marshals Service in the Southern District of Florida, along with the Jamaica Foreign Field Office and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, remain committed to locating and apprehending criminals who defraud elderly Americans. We will continue to work with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the JOLT task force in the ongoing effort to combat lottery fraud targeting some of our most vulnerable citizens," said Acting U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Florida Neil DeSousa.

"Jamaican lottery scams are a rampant problem stealing from Americans across the country. These fraudsters are preying on older Americans and fleecing them large amounts of money," said Stuart F. Delery, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. "The Justice Department will continue to combat this type of fraud and bring those responsible to justice."

"While these scams are based in Jamaica, they transmit considerable amounts of money through south Florida," said U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. "We will continue to prosecute those who use south Florida as a base from which to pursue this illegal activity."

If convicted, Barnett faces a maximum sentence of 30 years per count.

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