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Financial Crimes

HSI arrests 4 in Jamaican lottery fraud investigation

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Four men were arrested Tuesday in Brooklyn and charged with participating in a fraudulent lottery scheme being operated from Jamaica. The arrests are a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

According to U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., the scheme targeted elderly citizens throughout the United States, including two seniors living in western New York. Under arrest are: Corey Buddle, Orlando Buddle and Otis Ricketts, all of Brooklyn, as well as Horace Buddle, of Montego Bay, Jamaica. The defendants are charged with conspiring to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. The charges each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and fines up to $500,000.

"Criminals who target elderly citizens in these schemes are heartless in their relentless pursuit of their victims' bank accounts," said James C. Spero, special agent in charge of HSI Buffalo, which handled the investigation leading to the arrests. "While it's great news that these men are now in custody, I strongly encourage anyone with elderly loved ones to familiarize themselves with these schemes and take steps to protect them from exploitation."

The criminal complaint alleges the defendants conspired with others to defraud senior citizens by luring them into believing they had won millions of dollars in the lottery, as well as a Mercedes-Benz in many cases, in exchange for fees paid up front. The scheme typically utilized contact by mail, telephone or fax and also involved high pressure tactics and threats to coerce the victims to send money. In one instance, a victim was threatened with legal action and possible arrest if she did not make payments to the defendants.

In response to the false claims made by the defendants, victims sent payments of more than $275,000 to a residence in Brooklyn or to designated bank accounts between March 2011 and June 2013. Additional payments of unknown amounts were sent by victims to the same address in Brooklyn. According to the complaint, at least 10 elderly victims were identified by law enforcement officials, and law enforcement believes others have been victimized by this scheme. The victims include an 83-year-old man from Buffalo and a 71-year-old man from Rochester. Some of the funds acquired from victims in the United States were transported to Jamaica, or otherwise transferred out of the country by wire transactions or ATM withdrawals at locations in Jamaica.

"We often say if it sounds too good to be true it probably is," said Hochul. "In this case, 10 elderly victims were promised millions of dollars and luxury cars in exchange for a fee. If they did not pay up, they were threatened. If you are approached about participating in a lottery and are asked to submit money, you need to think twice. And, if you are ever threatened with legal action or arrest, contact the proper authorities. For more information, go to www.stopfraud.gov."

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.