Indictment Alleges Lottery Fraud
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Seventeen people are accused of bilking more than $100 million from victims in the United States and abroad through a lottery-ticket scheme that used a string of bogus companies, according to a federal indictment released Wednesday.
The defendants, who include citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia and Vanuatu, a small island nation near Australia, are allegedly took money from people who paid for lottery tickets but never received them.
Some of the victims were told they were winners, and that they had to pay handling fees to receive their winnings, which were nonexistent, according to the indictment issued by a grand jury in Memphis.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Memphis said victims likely numbered in the thousands. The amounts of money taken from individual victims often were relatively small, from $15 to a few hundred dollars.
The 89-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy, racketeering, mail fraud, smuggling and money laundering. Penalties for those crimes range from five to 20 years and fines of up to $500,000 per count.
The indictment was issued in Memphis because the investigation began after the regional FBI office received complaints from alleged victims, said Dan Newsom, an assistant U.S. attorney. He said those named in the indictment were still being rounded up.
The scheme began in 1989 in Richmond, British Columbia, with a company called World Wide Enterprises LTD, the indictment says. Over the years, it moved several times and used more than 30 company names.