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Office of Public Affairs | Providence Businesswoman Arraigned in Federal Court in Alleged Multi-Million Dollar Fraud Scheme Targeting Seniors and Other Vulnerable Victims

Fraud, Bribery & CorruptionOffice of Public Affairs | Providence Businesswoman Arraigned in Federal Court in Alleged Multi-Million Dollar Fraud Scheme Targeting Seniors and Other Vulnerable Victims

A Rhode Island woman was arraigned today following indictment on June 17, by a federal grand jury on charges of mail fraud and conspiracy for operating a direct-mail sweepstakes scheme that defrauded seniors and other vulnerable individuals across the country out of more than $10 million dollars.

According to court documents, Megan E. Shine, 47, of Warwick, utilized the U.S. Mail to engage in a predatory mail fraud scheme that duped the elderly and other vulnerable individuals into sending payments, usually between $20 and $30 dollars, using mailings that falsely led recipients to believe they were entitled to cash prizes or other valuable items or benefits. Many victims reported being contacted multiple times and sending multiple payments. The scheme was allegedly perpetrated through businesses Shine created and operated in Rhode Island, including Lucky Dog LLC, doing business as Premium Ops & Incentives, and Destiny Merchandise LLC, doing business as Independent Catalog Services.

“Mass mail fraud schemes defraud elderly and vulnerable consumers out of millions of dollars every year,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and its law enforcement partners are committed to vigorously pursuing all individuals who prey on vulnerable and elderly victims through these types of fraudulent schemes.”

“Preying on the hopes of elderly and vulnerable victims for profit, and using fraudulent mailings to persuade them to part with their hard-earned money takes a terrible toll- financially and mentally,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha for the District of Rhode Island. “Working with our partners at the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, the Postal Inspection Service and federal, state and local law enforcement, we are determined to ensure that those who seek to profit from fraud are held accountable.”

According to the indictment, Shine mailed deceptive solicitations that led recipients to believe they had been individually pre-selected or verified and entitled to claim a large amount of money in a lottery or entitled to receive a valuable item. In the mailings (often personalized with the name of the recipient to bolster their apparent authenticity), recipients were instructed to send money, frequently by a deadline, to a post office box in Providence for the “processing” or “handling” of their purported winnings. The mailings were printed on official-looking or certificate paper, frequently carried what appeared to be the seals of governments or government agencies, and frequently contained other language and details designed to make them appear official or legitimate, including bar codes, document control numbers, printing that appears to be rubber stamped, such as the phrase “authorized document,” highlighted text, bank-check style typeface and formatting, as well as identification and other codes. In reality, all of the mailings were identical (apart from the name and address of the recipient).

The solicitations contained text and graphics that created a false overall impression that the recipients were already winners of substantial awards, often totaling millions of dollars. In reality, recipients had not won a prize. Instead, according to the indictment, Shine sent victims a booklet containing publicly available sweepstakes rules or a small and inexpensive piece of jewelry.

Shine is charged with four counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy. If convicted, Shine faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The United States Postal Inspection Service is investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Charles Dunn, Ann Entwistle and Colin Trundle of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Denise M. Barton and Peter I. Roklan for the District of Rhode Island are prosecuting the case.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.

More information about the department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.reportfraud.ftc.gov/ or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Justice Department provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which can be reached at www.ovc.gov.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Story from www.justice.gov

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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