U.S. Convicts Woman Involved in Jamaican Lottery Scam

A court convicted a Rhode Island woman for her participation in a Jamaican lottery fraud scheme, which has affected about 100 identified victims with reported losses totaling more than US$6.7 million, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Monday.

800px-Demo arrest handcuffedScammers targeted victims over the age of 55 (Photo: Wikimedia)Melinda Bulgin, 28, was convicted on conspiracy and substantive mail fraud and wire fraud charges, as well as one count of money laundering conspiracy. She was the last of dozens of defendants in a case authorities have been investigating and trying for six years. The others either pleaded guilty or were convicted earlier.

The group called elderly people on the phone to inform them they had won large cash prizes but will have to pay taxes first. Once the victims sent the money, the group members kept it for themselves.

Bulgin collected the money and brought it to the others to Jamaica using cheap flights she obtained through her job with an airline. She was arrested at an Jamaican airport in 2015 carrying $14,800 she had just received from an elderly woman from Arizona.

The DoJ statement said that the scammers deliberately targeted victims over the age of 55 and first courted them with the lure of prizes. Then other scam callers would identify themselves as FBI, IRS or other trusted authorities and falsely confirm that the prize winnings were real.  

Some victims lost their savings, their life insurance and their homes before running out of money and turning to public or family assistance. Victims lost anywhere from $200 to more than $100,000.

The Jamaican lottery fraud scheme is listed in the United States as a Top International Criminal Organization Target, nationwide, the number of Jamaican Lottery Fraud victims is in the millions, with some estimates of annual losses in excess of $1 billion.