|Federal agents have shattered a scheme that swindled naÔve elderly people across America out of their life savings. The racket, based in Canada, made an estimated $5 million out of victims that were convinced they had won a lottery jackpot.|
Starting in early 2000 the thieves specifically targeted the elderly and approached them with the news that they had won a massive cash prize in a Canadian lottery. However the lucky winners would need to pay taxes on their winnings before the money could be released. Alarm bells really should have been ringing though when they were also told that if news of the contest spread all winnings would be lost.
Like taking candy from a baby the racketeers duped more than eighty citizens of the United States. Cheques received by the gang ranged from anywhere between $20,000 and $240,000. And not one of these frail old timers wondered how they won a lottery they hadnít taken part in.
Starting last spring the investigation, led by the FBI with co-operation from US Customs, postal inspectors and even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, tracked the money back to Canada. Once the cheques were cashed and laundered the money found its way to banks in the Middle East. So far the authorities have recovered $4.5 million from banks in Jordan and Israel.
The gang were arrested in Montreal and will be tried in New Hampshire, where of one of their earliest victims lives. In all fifteen Canadians stand charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. However the trial is unlikely to take place until 2004.