A Long Beach, Washington, man was indicted on federal charges this week in relation to a telemarketing sweepstakes scheme.
Mark Raymond Oman, 33, was one of seven U.S. citizens organizing the scheme based in Costa Rica call centers for nearly three years staring in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. A 20-count indictment filed in North Carolina, unsealed Tuesday, includes one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and nine counts of international money laundering.
The victims included at least 10 people over age 55.
“Scamming elderly people out of their life’s savings is deplorable,” U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray said in a press release. “Most older Americans live on a fixed income, so when scammers come along and steal these elderly victims’ limited financial resources, our mission is to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
The indictment alleges the seven men operated out of several Costa Rica call centers to avoid detection. They allegedly called people in the U.S. to inform them they had won a “prize,” usually $450,000, and needed to send money such as insurance and custom fees or taxes to claim it. After receiving the money, they would call back and ask for more money, either because of clerical errors or because the victims’ prize was upped to as much as $4.5 million.
The men would allegedly act as “openers,” who made initial phone calls informing victims of the prize; “loaders,” who asked for additional money; and “runners,” who collect and disperse the funds for call center operations or personal benefit. Oman was a runner, according to the indictment. Roger Roger, of Hialeah, Florida, allegedly supervised the operations.
To help conceal their identity, the men allegedly used aliases and a variety of technologies, such as a system that made it appear they were calling from inside the U.S. On several occasions, they falsely claimed that they were federal agents.
The money would then be sent, sometimes directly to Costa Rica, via Western Union, MoneyGram, money orders, direct deposits or wires. Wire transfers totaled more than $17,000, according to the indictment.