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 today, 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.