A Nigerian national was sentenced by a federal judge in Louisville to 15 years in prison for his participation in a sweepstakes scam, reports the U.S. Attorneys office for the Western District of Kentucky.
The scam resulted in more than 50 victims sending Kingsley Ekpendu cash in the mail, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman.
Ekpendu pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud. As part of the plea agreement, Ekpendu, who is a permanent resident of the United States, agreed to be deported after the completion of his 15-month prison sentence. Chief Judge McKinley also ordered Ekpendu to pay $257,916.15 in restitution to victims of the scheme.
According to the plea agreement, from on or about February 22, 2016, through October 4, 2017, Ekpendu participated in a scheme to defraud victims by making them believe they had won a sweepstakes or lottery.
Ekpendu and others mailed letters to potential victims around the nation. Each letter stated the recipient had won a lottery or sweepstakes prize, listed a phone number for a “claims manager,” and included a check for several thousand dollars to cover “insurance and legal fees.”
When the victim called the “claims manager,” the “claims manager” would tell the victim that in order to receive the prize, the victim needed to deposit the check and send several thousand dollars cash to an address in Louisville, Kentucky. The defendant would then pick up the parcels containing cash from the Louisville address, keeping a share of the cash for himself and sending the remainder to other participants in the scheme.
Ultimately, the checks Ekpendu and others mailed to the victims were fraudulent, but the victims would not realize this until after they had sent cash to the Louisville address and it was too late for them to recover the funds says the Justice Department.
Assistant United States Attorney Amanda Gregory prosecuted the case. The United States Postal Inspection Service and the Louisville Metro Police Department conducted the investigation.