BATON ROUGE, La. - A Louisiana resident received $6,497.07 from special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) on Thursday, following a successful joint investigation against fraudulent telemarketers.
The investigation was part of a multi-agency, U.S-Canada initiative called, "Project COLT." Although there are many scam variations, in these cases, the callers fraudulently represent themselves as lottery officials.
The scammers tell unknowing or elderly victims they have won the lottery and must pay fees and service charges to be able to collect their fictitious winnings. HSI agents warn that con artists often pose as lawyers, customs officials, police officers or lottery company officials to bilk their victims out of millions of dollars.
Since its inception in 1988, Project COLT has seized and returned more than $25 million to U.S. and Canadian victims of telemarketing fraud. Furthermore, ICE has initiated numerous complex criminal investigations due to Project COLT efforts, resulting in 26 U.S. grand jury indictments and 161 U.S. and Canada-based arrests. In addition, Canadian law enforcement authorities have executed more than 50 search warrants and shut down 44 Western Union branch offices involved in telemarketing fraud conspiracies.
"This case is a good example of the outstanding cooperation between HSI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Because of this cooperation, fraudulent telemarketers and other criminals are discovering how difficult it is for them to hide their illegal activities from authorities," said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in New Orleans. "We are dedicated to identifying and dismantling these types of criminal operations wherever and whenever we find them." Parmer oversees a five-state area which includes Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Telemarketing fraud has become one of the most pervasive forms of white-collar crime in Canada and the United States, with annual losses in both countries in the billions of dollars. These criminal organizations are heavily involved with international and violent organized crime, including the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang and, as such, represent a significant assault on the U.S. homeland and upon the financial security and livelihood of its citizens.
ICE HSI agents work diligently to promote public safety and national security by protecting the revenue of the United States, tracing various money trails leading into and out of the country, interdicting illicit drugs, preventing the export of U.S. military munitions/equipment and high technology items to embargoed countries, deterring illegal immigration, preventing immigration-related crimes and removing criminals who are unlawfully present in the United States.