In a remarkable judicial move, 41-year-old Damone Oakley, a citizen of Jamaica, was sentenced to 16 years in jail for masterminding a fraudulent sweepstakes scam that preyed mostly on elderly victims in the United States. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) rendered the verdict, which revealed Oakley’s deep involvement in a criminal business that lasted for over ten years.
Guilty Plea and Extradition
Damone Oakley had previously pleaded guilty in July 2023 to two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. The charges stemmed from his role in a complex scheme that duped vulnerable individuals into believing they had won millions of dollars and luxury vehicles in sweepstakes, only to be exploited for taxes and fees. The DOJ revealed that Oakley, a resident of St James, Jamaica, was extradited to the United States in 2022 to face the charges.
Elaborate Fraudulent Sweepstakes Scheme
The fraudulent sweepstakes operation orchestrated by Oakley targeted elderly and vulnerable victims between 2010 and 2019. The DOJ detailed that victims received deceptive mailings, text messages, or phone calls, falsely notifying them of their supposed winnings. However, the catch was that they needed to pay taxes and fees to claim their prizes. Oakley operated under various aliases, including “Officer Alex Logan” and “Officer Stan Valentine,” providing instructions to victims on how to send money and to whom the funds should be directed.
Oakley’s victims were scattered across the United States, and the scam utilized various channels for money transmission. These included wire transfers, direct bank deposits, the US Postal Service, and private commercial mail carriers. The DOJ disclosed that Oakley not only received funds directly but also employed intermediaries in the United States and elsewhere to transmit the ill-gotten gains. Victims, in addition to sending cash or wire transfers, were directed to purchase electronics, jewelry, and clothing, which were then forwarded to Oakley in Jamaica through mail forwarding services in Florida.
Devastating Financial Losses
The victims, lured by the promise of substantial winnings, never received any prizes. Instead, Oakley’s fraudulent scheme resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses for the victims. The DOJ emphasized the severe impact on the individuals who often can least afford such financial setbacks.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, stated, “The Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and its law enforcement partners will vigorously pursue individuals who prey on vulnerable and elderly victims through fraudulent schemes.” US Attorney Gerard M. Karam echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the commitment to protecting society’s most vulnerable members and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.
Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the US Postal Inspection Services (USPIS) Criminal Investigations Group highlighted the collaborative efforts between postal inspectors and the Department of Justice. He emphasized that scammers operating beyond borders could no longer act with impunity. With the DOJ’s extradition powers, individuals like Oakley are brought to the United States to face the consequences of their actions, as evidenced by Oakley’s 192-month prison sentence.