Telemarketer Sentenced to Prison in Connection with $10 Million Fraudulent “Sweepstakes” Scheme; Posed as U.S. Government Agencies

From a call center in Costa Rica conspirators, who falsely posed as employees of U.S. government agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the IRS, contacted victims in the United States to tell them that that they had won a substantial “sweepstakes” prize convincing victims,they needed to make up-front payments for a “refundable insurance fee” before collecting.

INDIANA – A telemarketer was sentenced to 63 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his role in a $10 million telemarketing scheme that defrauded primarily elderly victims in the United States from call centers in Costa Rica.    

According to the Justice Department, Carlin Woods, 35, of Merrillville, Indiana, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn Jr. of the Western District of North Carolina. Woods pleaded guilty on May 15, 2017, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

According to admissions made as part of his plea agreement, Woods worked in a call center in Costa Rica in which co-conspirators, who falsely posed as employees of U.S. government agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), U.S. Customs and Boder Protection and the IRS, contacted victims in the United States to tell them that that they had won a substantial “sweepstakes” prize. After convincing victims, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, that they stood to receive a significant financial reward, Woods and his co-conspirators fraudulently told victims that they needed to make up-front payments for a “refundable insurance fee” before collecting their supposed prize.  The members of the conspiracy used a variety of means to conceal their true identities, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, which made it appear that they were calling from Washington, D.C., and other places in the United States. 

Woods arranged for victims to transmit payments to Costa Rica or through people in the United States who collected money from victims and forwarded the payment to Woods and others in Costa Rica, he admitted.

At sentencing it was determined that Woods and his co-conspirators stole more than $1.5 million from victims.     

This case was investigated by USPIS, the IRS and the FBI, with assistance from the FTC and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, the Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors. In particular, this past March the Department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 260 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep.  The Department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act.   

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