Federal judge bars three accused of sweepstakes scam from using Postal Service
A federal judge in Rhode Island on Tuesday barred a businessman, his wife and a third associate from using the U.S. Postal Service to target elderly people in what the government says is a fraudulent sweepstakes scheme that has bilked more than $10 million from individuals.
U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith issued a temporary restraining order against Michael Shine, his wife Megan, both of Warwick, Rhode Island, and Mellissa Pinelli of Cranston, Rhode Island.
Federal prosecutors said that the three have used the postal service since 2011 to run a mail fraud scheme. targeting “elderly and vulnerable individuals.”
The mailings say the targets have won or will win cash or valuable items if they pay a processing fee to collect it, according to court documents. But after paying the fee, the promised items are never received, prosecutors said.
The processing fees ranged between $20 and $30, prosecutors said. All told, the defendants collected $10 million through the scheme with some elderly victims sending well over $1,000 in response to multiple solicitations, the Justice Department said.
Solicitations were sent in 41 states, the Justice Department said.
Authorities say the defendants’ business, Lucky Dog, also known as Premium Ops Incentives and Destiny Merchandise, sent out the deceptive mailings.
The investigation was conducted by Postal Service agents working with federal prosecutors.