Nigerian National Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison for Role in $2.7 Million International Lottery Scam
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 30, 2010|
LOS ANGELES—A Nigerian man who was involved in running several bogus lottery companies out of London, England has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for bilking mainly elderly victims out of more than $2.7 million with promises of huge winnings in international lotteries.
Emmanuel I. Onwuzulike, who also used the name "Tony Moore," 53, was sentenced yesterday by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer. In addition to the 168-month prison term, Judge Fischer ordered Onwuzulike to pay full restitution to his victims across the United States.
Onwuzulike pleaded guilty in July to one count of mail fraud. In court, prosecutors argued that he was part of an organization that bilked approximately 52 victims—most of whom were elderly—out of $2,729,942. From 2004 through 2006, Onwuzulike helped operate companies with names like Euromillones Loteria International and EU Anti-Terrorism Commission. The Metropolitan Police Service in London executed a search warrant in August 2006, obtaining evidence about the bogus lottery businesses from Onwuzulike's residence and vehicle.
Using phone calls, letters and emails, those involved in the international lottery scheme contacted potential victims, telling them they had won a lottery prize. However, to collect the "winnings," victims had to call telemarketers in Spain or England, who told the victims that they had to pay taxes or other fees to receive "prizes" that never materialized. Some victims were "reloaded" when the fraudulent telemarketers demanded more fees or taxes from victims.
In June 2006, a victim in Orange County, California received a letter informing her that she had won $815,950 from the Euromillones Spanish Sweepstakes Lottery. The letter directed the victim to contact a person in London, who told the victim that she had to pay a 2 percent tax in order the receive her winnings. This victim wired $16,319 to a bank account controlled by Onwuzulike, but she never received any money. Another Orange County woman, under similar circumstances, wired a total of $39,241 after being told that she had won $3.8 million in the Australian lottery. A victim who lived in the San Fernando Valley sent about $368,000 to Onwuzulike, which caused her and her children to lose their home.
"This case involves a serious fraud through which defendant and others stole money from victims who could hardly afford the loss," prosecutors wrote in sentencing papers. "This crime had devastating consequences for its victims, emotional as well as financial."
Evidence obtained by authorities in London indicated that Onwuzulike targeted victims around the world, including people in the United Arab Emirates.
As part of the 14-year sentence, Judge Fischer found that Onwuzulike withdrew tens of thousands in cash from bank accounts where victims' money was being held—cash that he withdrew after authorities in England specifically ordered him to leave the money in the bank.
The case against Onwuzulike was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Metropolitan Police Service in London.