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Daily Court Reporter - News District court enters temporary restraining order blocking three elder fraud schemes from sending fraudulent letters

 

District court enters temporary restraining order blocking three elder fraud schemes from sending fraudulent letters

A federal court in Central Islip, New York entered a temporary injunction today against individuals and corporations allegedly responsible for operating three international mail fraud schemes, the Department of Justice announced. These cases are part of the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative.

In a complaint filed recently, the United States alleged that the 15 defendants mailed, or facilitated the mailing of, fraudulent solicitations related to three mail fraud schemes that primarily victimized the elderly or vulnerable. The solicitations purported to be personalized notices informing recipients that they had won a large cash prize but needed urgently to pay a fee to claim their winnings. The solicitations targeted victims throughout the world, and victims returned their payments to mailboxes located in the United States. Although victims sent in the requested fees by cash, check, or credit card, they did not receive large cash prizes in return. The complaint further alleges that the defendants were aware that the mailings deceived consumers into paying a fee and believing they had already won a valuable prize. The complaint alleges that victims sent thousands of dollars each week in response to the defendants’ fraudulent solicitations. The complaint alleged that in the last year, the three mail fraud schemes collectively mailed over half a million fraudulent letters, grossing an estimated $4.8 million in fraudulent proceeds.

Along with the complaint, the United States sought a temporary restraining order against the defendants to prevent them from continuing to send fraudulent solicitations during the pendency of the action. The district court found probable cause to believe that those defendants are engaged in mail fraud and entered the order. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for December 3, 2018.

“We will not tolerate fraud, and we will not allow the U.S. Mail to be used as a conduit for fraudulent conduct,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Illegal schemes that prey on people’s hopes are reprehensible, and we will continue to vigorously pursue the operators of such schemes.”

“These fraudulent solicitation schemes target elderly and vulnerable residents in our district, around the country and around the world with a promise of cash prizes that never arrive,” stated Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We are committed to protecting our residents, and victims everywhere, from these cruel schemes.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has been at the forefront of protecting consumers from fraud schemes for many years,” said Inspector in Charge Delany De Leon-Colon for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigations Group. “Deceptive solicitations take advantage of the American public with promises of easy money, when in reality, the scammers are the only ones making money. Investigations like this one let the American public – especially our vulnerable population – know that Postal Inspectors are working hard to protect them and ensure their confidence in the U.S. Mail.”

The complaint alleged that defendants Charles Kafeiti of Phoenix, Arizona; Anthony Kafeiti of Port Jefferson, New York; and Steven Diaz of Mt. Sinai, New York, operate fraud schemes that lead victims to believe a large cash awards awaits them. The three schemes were assisted by Drew Wilson, a resident of Vancouver, Canada, who provided logistical support. Other named defendants, Dennis Hunsaker, a resident of Las Vegas Nevada, and his company, Digital Matrix International Inc., assisted the direct mailers with online tools to manage their mailings, lists of recipients, lists of respondents, and fulfillments. Carmine Maietta and Elizabeth Maietta, residents of Westbury, New York, opened and processed victim returns. The suit also named a German corporation that processed victim payments for the scheme, SixEvolution GmbH, and its operator, David Anthony.

Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, The Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors. In particular, this past February the Attorney General announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 200 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep. The Department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of the Act.

Last week, the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture hosted an inaugural Rural and Tribal Elder Justice Summit in Des Moines, Iowa. The Summit focused on supporting the efforts of elder justice professionals to combat elder abuse and financial exploitation in rural and tribal communities, and included remarks from Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

In the matter filed today, the government is represented by Trial Attorney Jacqueline Blaesi-Freed of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seth Eichenholtz and John Vagelatos of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The United States Postal Inspection Service provided investigative support.

A complaint is merely a set of allegations that, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government must prove to receive a determination of liability.

Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, visit its website at www.justice.gov/usao-edny. Information about the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Imitative is available at www.justice.gov/elderjustice.

About the US Department of Justice

The Office of the Attorney General was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789 (ch. 20, sec. 35, 1 Stat. 73, 92-93), as a one-person part-time position. The Act specified that the Attorney General was to be "learned in the law," with the duty "to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching any matters that may concern their departments."

However, the workload quickly became too much for one person, necessitating the hiring of several assistants for the Attorney General. As the work steadily increased along with the size of the new nation, private attorneys were retained to work on cases.

By 1870, after the end of the Civil War, the increase in the amount of litigation involving the United States had required the very expensive retention of a large number of private attorneys to handle the workload. A concerned Congress passed the Act to Establish the Department of Justice (ch. 150, 16 Stat. 162), creating "an executive department of the government of the United States" with the Attorney General as its head.

Officially coming into existence on July 1, 1870, the Department of Justice was empowered to handle all criminal prosecutions and civil suits in which the United States had an interest. To assist the Attorney General, the 1870 Act also created the Office of the Solicitor General, who represents the interests of the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 1870 Act remains the foundation for the Department’s authority, but the structure of the Department of Justice has changed over the years, with the addition of the offices of Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, and the formation of various components, offices, boards and divisions. From its beginning as a one-man, part-time position, the Department of Justice has evolved into the world's largest law office and the chief enforcer of federal laws.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The most sacred of the duties of government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.” This sacred duty remains the guiding principle for the women and men of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Date Published: December 17, 2018

 

US Department of Justice

 

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