Jamaican man first to be extradited to face fraud charges in lottery scam
MIAMI – A Jamaican man was extradited Thursday for his role in a Jamaican-based telemarketing fraud scheme. 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.
Damion Bryan Barrett, 28, was charged in a 38-count indictment with conspiracy and 37 counts of wire fraud and committing these offenses via telemarketing. According to the indictment, Barrett and his co-conspirators fraudulently induced elderly victims in the United States to send them thousands of dollars to pay purported fees for lottery winnings that the victims had not in fact won. Barrett is the first Jamaican citizen to be extradited from that country to the United States based on charges of defrauding Americans in connection with a lottery scheme.
According to the indictment, beginning in October 2008, Barrett and his co-conspirators contacted victims in the United States announcing that the victims had won cash and prizes and persuaded the victims to send them thousands of dollars in fees to release the money. The victims never received cash or prizes. The defendant and his co-conspirators allegedly made calls from Jamaica using voice over internet protocol technology that allowed them to use a telephone number with a U.S. area code. According to the indictment, Barrett convinced victims to send money to middlemen in South Florida, who then forwarded the money to Jamaica.
Barrett was indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale Aug. 9, 2012, and was arrested last month in Jamaica based on the United States’ request that he be extradited. Barrett’s extradition is the latest step in the United States’ ongoing crackdown on fraudulent lottery schemes based in Jamaica.
“The Department of Justice will find and prosecute those responsible for fraud against American consumers, no matter where the perpetrator resides,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Lottery schemes that target elderly victims for fraud cannot, and will not, be tolerated.”
“Persons who commit crimes against American seniors from outside of the United States will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida. “This case serves as an example that there are no borders when it comes to obtaining justice for the victims of these lottery schemes.”
“Today's extradition signals strong partnership between the Jamaica Constabulary Force and our U.S. law enforcement partners,” said Commissioner of Police Dr. Carl Williams of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. “We use this opportunity to warn other lottery scammers who continue to prey on unsuspecting U.S. citizens, that they too will pay the penalty, whether through conviction in Jamaica or through extradition to the United States. We continue to address this with a high level of attention to contain the scourge.”
“Together with our international and domestic law enforcement partners we have proven that justice has no borders,” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Ronald Verrochio of the USPIS Miami Division. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute those who defraud American citizens, anywhere in the world.”
“The U.S. Marshals Service, together with our federal partners, will continue to track down and bring to justice those who would pray on our most vulnerable in our country,” said U.S. Marshal Amos Rojas of the Southern District of Florida.
If convicted, Barrett faces a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in prison per count, a possible fine and mandatory restitution. Barrett’s co-defendant, Oneike Barnett, 29, pleaded guilty on Feb. 28, 2014, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. On April 29, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Zloch sentenced Barnettto serve 60 months in prison and five years of supervised release, and to pay $94,456 in restitution for his role in this case.
In March 2009, HSI and the Jamaican Constabulary Force partnered to form Project JOLT to combat the significant increase in Jamaican-based telemarketing fraud. In one of the more common scams, these telemarketing fraudsters are calling U.S. citizens and leading them to believe that they have won an international, multimillion dollar sweepstakes. The scammers tell the victims in order to receive their winnings they must pay an advance fee, usually described as a tax, insurance or customs duty. The victims are instructed to send the fee via Western Union, Money Gram or other methods to co-conspirators in Jamaica. Other telemarketing schemes include phony inheritance, investment and disaster relief scams, as well as scams claiming the victim's own grandchildren are in need of help.
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.