How “lottery winners” actually lost $350,000 after being told they had won

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When the Justice Department announced a collage of cases over the last year as “the largest elder fraud sweep in Justice Department history,” the cases included two Florida men who defrauded $350,000 from victims via the Jamaican lottery scam.

Miramar resident Claude Shaw, 50, and Fort Pierce’s Marvin Coote, 36, separately worked the con that preys on the forgetfulness of old age.

It relies on the target to forget that when you win money, you don’t pay money to get it. And to forget you can’t win a contest without entering a contest. Or to know that they might have entered a contest and forgotten they did.

The scheme’s simple, as described in Shaw’s indictment: “Victims throughout the United States would receive telephone calls in which they were informed that they had won over a million dollars in a lottery and needed to pay money in advance to claim their winnings. The victims were instructed on how, and to whom, to send their money. The victims were instructed to send their money through wire transfers, the United States Postal Service, and private and commercial interstate carriers to Claude Shaw and individuals who worked with Shaw at his place of employment.”

Shaw sent some of the money to cronies in Jamaica. He sent none of the money to the “winners” he scammed.

As two examples of Shaw’s use of the Postal Service — he pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud — when he ran the scheme from September 2013 through August 2015, the indictment says Shaw received an $11,400 cashier’s check in the mail from A.H. in Deer Creek, Oklahoma, on April 6, 2015. And he received a $12,500 cashier’s check from H.V. in Roseville, Minnesota, on Aug. 18, 2015.

Shaw’s $128,440 restitution order includes those amounts. He’s almost nine months into a three-year sentence.

Coote owes $225,995 in restitution after operating his scam for six years during which he suckered at least 10 senior citizen victims, according to his admission in court documents.

While scamming 86-year-old “L.R.,” Coote got a two-for-one deal with her Boynton Beach boyfriend “R.W.”

“Mr. R.W., who is 87 years old, was asked about a $6,000 bank wire transfer he had made,” court documents read. “R.W. said his girlfriend is L.R., and he believed she was getting scammed by sending the bank wire transfers. R.W. said that despite that, he wanted to help her when she asked him to send money for her, so she could collect her lottery winnings.”

The wire transfer went to the PNC Bank account of Marvin Coote. Coote is doing three years, five months in federal prison for attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

“The Justice Department and its partners are taking unprecedented, coordinated action to protect elderly Americans from financial threats, both foreign and domestic,” said 71-year-old senior citizen and U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. “(Friday’s) actions send a clear message: we will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are. When criminals steal the hard-earned life savings of older Americans, we will respond with all the tools at the Department’s disposal – criminal prosecutions to punish offenders, civil injunctions to shut the schemes down, and asset forfeiture to take back ill-gotten gains.”


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