California AG Wins Lottery Against Sweepstakes Scam Artists

Today, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Juan Luis Llamas was sentenced to prison for his role in what is being called a massive sweepstakes fraud scheme that bilked U.S. citizens out of millions. Llamas was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of over $4 million, jointly with his co-conspirators.

Llamas, who pleaded guilty in late 2007, was charged with conspiring to defraud U.S. residents, mostly seniors, of millions of dollars. According to the indictments, Llamas and his co-conspirators made calls to U.S. residents from Costa Rica (using VoIP technology to disguise the call’s origin). Victims were told they had won a “sweepstakes contest” and were being contacted by the “Sweepstakes Security Commission” to ensure the safety of the award. The bogus calls requested the victims wire thousands of dollars as a “refundable insurance fee.” In many cases, victims were asked to wire additional money.

Practice Pointer: The United States does not have a Sweepstakes Security Commission, or any other government entity tasked with awarding money to individuals. In addition, legitimate prize providers will not request an actual winner wire funds to insure a safe transfer of a prize. Finally, if you didn’t enter a sweepstakes, and someone wants to award you money, it’s likely a scam.

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