Going behind bars
Two men have received prison sentences for a lottery scam that saw them defraud victims out of more than $700,000. The fraudsters mainly targeted older people in various states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Jason Wedderburn received a three-year prison sentence
A statement from the US attorney’s office for the District of Rhode Island on Tuesday outlined how Jason Wedderburn received a three-year prison sentence in a Providence federal court. After serving this sentence, he will then be subject to three years of federal supervised release.
Kayan Kitson received a prison sentence of two and a half years last month and will also face three years of federal supervised release. The authorities arrested the two men in Florida in August 2020. In July, they both pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.
Details of the scam
According to a US Postal Inspection Service Investigation, the scam began in May 2018. The two men contacted victims and informed them of significant cash lottery wins. In order to get their hands on these winnings, the scammers told the victims that they had to pre-pay fees or taxes.
The money from the victims was deposited into bank accounts under the control of Kitson and Wedderburn. The latter used at least four bank accounts for this purpose, with Kitson operating at least one.
The offenders then sent these funds to bank accounts under the control of accomplices across the US and Jamaica. People in Jamaica often then withdrew the cash from ATMs. Both Kitson and Wedderburn are Jamaican citizens.
A common occurrence
Lottery-related scams are not rare in the US or overseas. The tactic of requiring an upfront fee to unlock winnings is a popular way for scammers to secure funds. They usually inform their victims over the phone or by email of a lucrative prize they have won, but they need to pay an upfront fee in order to get their hands on the winnings.
One high-profile lottery scam in recent times involved a father and his two sons in Massachusetts. They earned more than $20m by cashing in state lottery tickets on behalf of the winners, asserting that they could help them avoid paying taxes on their prizes.
In August, officials charged the family members with a single count of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), numerous counts of filing false tax returns, as well as a single count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.