Vegas Trio Face Lengthy Prison Terms in $10M Prize-Notification Scam

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Three men from the Las Vegas area are gearing up to challenge the extensive federal prison sentences handed to them after being convicted in a prize-notification scam. The scheme, which spanned eight years, is said to have defrauded elderly and vulnerable individuals of over $10 million.

Related: Sara Jacqueline King Slots Whisperer Agrees to Plead Guilty in $8M Fraud Case

Mario Castro, 55, and Miguel Castro, 58, both from Las Vegas, were sentenced to 20 years and just over 19 years in prison, respectively. Meanwhile, Jose Luis Mendez, 49, from Henderson, received a 14-year sentence. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada, Jason Frierson, announced these sentences following the jury's guilty verdict in April on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and multiple counts of mail fraud.

Despite the convictions, the trio's attorneys have stated that their clients continue to assert their innocence. William Brown, representing Mendez, Joshua Tomsheck for Mario Castro, and Lucas Gaffney for Miguel Castro, announced on Monday their intentions to appeal both the convictions and the sentences.

Frierson's statement also revealed that several other residents from the Las Vegas area had previously entered guilty pleas for conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection to the same case.

The indictment detailed that the fraudulent mailings were sent under the guise of various corporate entities. Names such as Imperial Award Services, Assets Unlimited, and Pacific Disbursement Reporting were used to lend an air of legitimacy to the scam.

Massive Mail Fraud Operation Exposed

The indictment, which was filed in November 2019, presented evidence that from 2010 to February 2018, the three main defendants, along with other co-conspirators, orchestrated a massive mail fraud operation. They dispatched millions of deceptive prize notices, luring victims with the promise of a substantial cash prize. However, there was a catch: recipients were asked to pay a fee of approximately $25 to claim their so-called winnings.

Jurors learned that those who paid the fee not only failed to receive the promised prize but were also inundated with further fraudulent prize notifications. The operation continued unabated until the U.S. Postal Service inspectors intervened. After issuing multiple cease-and-desist orders, they executed search warrants, leading the Justice Department to secure a court order to halt the scam.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the lengths fraudsters will go to exploit vulnerable individuals. As the legal proceedings continue, it underscores the importance of vigilance and skepticism when confronted with too-good-to-be-true offers.

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