Jamaican Lottery Fraud Arrest

August 14, 2013 - Grand Rapids, MI

For the past few years, hundreds of West Michigan consumers
have contacted the BBB and law enforcement officials, asking about lottery check winnings they received in the mail from a foreign lottery. The supposed lottery winners are told that all they need to do is wire a few thousand dollars to the Lottery Organization in order to collect their winnings. Of course, these lottery checks and winnings were always a fraud. International lotteries are illegal in the United States, and a winner of a legitimate lottery would never have to wire tax or fee payments to collect their lottery winnings.

A Jamaican man was arrested this week in Florida, and charged with operating of a fraudulent lottery. Many Federal agencies including the Justice Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Marshals Service worked together on this case. Oneike Mickhale Barnett is charged with running a lottery scam in Jamaica that induced elderly victims in the United States to send them thousands of dollars to cover fees for lottery winnings that victims had not in fact won. The indictment unsealed with Barnett's arrest forms part of the government's crackdown on fraudulent lottery scams based in Jamaica.

Barnett and his co-conspirators are alleged to have contacted victims in the U.S. with notification that the victims had won cash and prizes, and persuaded the victims to send them thousands of dollars in fees to release the money. The victims never received cash or prizes. The defendants allegedly made calls from Jamaica using Voice Over Internet Protocol technology that allowed them to use a telephone number with a U.S. area code. According to the indictment, Barnett convinced victims to send money to middlemen in South Florida, who forwarded the money to Jamaica.

Barnett was charged with conspiracy and 37 counts of wire fraud, and with committing these offenses via telemarketing. If convicted, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years per count, a possible fine and mandatory restitution.

The people arrested are not the only alleged perpetrators of these lottery frauds, and the BBB warns all recipients of mail, e-mail, web, or phone calls with supposed lottery winnings and checks to report these fraudulent activities to the BBB and appropriate government agencies...and never wire money to anyone you don't know!

BBB helps consumers find and recommend businesses, brands, and charities they can trust.

About BBB Serving Western Michigan

BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free business reviews of more than 4 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust, for consumers and businesses alike. Please visit www.bbb.orgfor more information.