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US Woman Gets 10 Years in Prison for Costa Rica-Based Sweepstakes Scam

Costa Rica – Costa Rica is well known for scams and it seems expats are getting more involved.  

sweepstake-scamA Sacramento woman has been sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison for her role in a sweepstakes fraud scheme that targeted elderly people.

Patricia Diane Clark, 57, was sentenced Tuesday by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney of the Western District of North Carolina for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Clark pleaded guilty to her role in a half-million-dollar Costa Rica-based sweepstakes scheme that victimized hundreds of United States residents, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release. In addition to a 130-month prison sentence, Clark was ordered to pay $642,032 in restitution and to forfeit the same amount jointly with her co-defendants.

In connection with her guilty plea, Clark admitted that from approximately 2007 through February 2013, her co-conspirators called U.S. residents from Costa Rican call centers, falsely informing them that they had won a substantial cash prize in a “sweepstakes.” The victims, many of whom were elderly, were told that to receive the prize, they had to send money for a purported “refundable insurance fee.”

Clark admitted that she picked up the money from victims and sent it to her co-conspirators in Costa Rica. She also admitted that she managed others who picked up money from victims in the United States and that she kept a portion of the victims’ payments.

Once the victims sent money, Clark’s co-conspirators contacted the individuals again and falsely informed them that the prize amount had increased, either because of a clerical error or because another prize winner was disqualified. The victims then had to send additional money to pay for new purported fees to receive the larger sweepstake prize. The attempts to collect additional money from the victims continued until an individual either ran out of money or discovered the fraudulent nature of the scheme, authorities said.

Clark admitted that, along with her co-conspirators, she was responsible fore approximately $640,000 in losses to more than 100 U.S. citizens.

BY CATHY LOCKE, The Sacramento Bee

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