A federal grand jury has indicted a Jamaican native on charges that he ran a lottery scam targeting elderly South Florida victims, who were flimflammed into sending thousands of dollars “to release’’ purported winnings in the island nation.
The scam began in October 2008, when Oneike Mickhale Barnett and accomplices started calling victims, telling them they had won the lottery.
Barnett, who called from Jamaica but used an Internet program that allowed him to use a U.S. area code, convinced the victims to pay fees in order to obtain the money and prizes, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami.
“[They] caused elderly victims to be contacted numerous times with additional requests for bogus fees,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Some victims were told to mail, wire or send money by courier to the middlemen who wired the money to Jamaica from Fort Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Wilton Manors, Oakland Park and Tamarac to Jamaica.
Winners would send money, in some cases thousands, but never received a dime.
In addition to conspiracy, Barnett was charged with 37 counts of wire fraud, which carry a maximum sentence of 30 years for each count.
“The alleged lottery scheme in this case is most vile because it targeted the elderly, one of the most vulnerable members in our society,” said Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney in Miami.
Though Barnett was indicted last year by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, he was not arrested until Tuesday in Orlando.