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Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Westchester residents linked to $1M Jamaican sweepstakes scam

Two Westchester residents are among seven individuals who have been accused in federal court, White Plains, of running a variation of the Jamaican lottery scam based on the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.

The suspects allegedly conspired to swindle more than 30 people, mostly elderly, out of more than $1 million.

A federal grand jury on April 30 indicted Linkoy Bennett, New Rochelle, for wire fraud and money laundering. Tiffany Randolph, White Plains was arrested on a criminal complaint in March but has not been indicted.

The alleged scheme operated from July 2017 to September 2018. Conspirators called elderly people and said they had won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. But to collect their winnings, they had to prepay taxes and fees.

They were also instructed to send cash, money orders or cashier’s checks, or to wire funds, to fictitious names at addresses in the Bronx, New Rochelle and White Plains.

Ultimately, the funds were transferred to a conspirator in Jamaica, either by wire transfers or by couriers, the government says. The unnamed conspirator fled to Jamaica from the U.S. in October.

One of the victims is an 87-year-old woman who lives in Junction City, Kansas. Initially, she sent a $718 money order to a Walmart in White Plains that was allegedly picked up by a Bronx woman.

She made three more cash payments, totaling $255,000, and shipped the money to addresses in the Bronx and New Rochelle. The New Rochelle package went to a business address on Huguenot Street where Linkoy Bennett worked and where he allegedly took delivery.

Bennett is accused of receiving at least $215,000 in eight packages or wire transfers. Two other defendants claimed they collected and delivered money to Bennett, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent.

Another victim is a 77-year-old woman from Jefferson City, Missouri. She sent $31,000 in cash to a house on Gibson Avenue, White Plains, where Randolph lived and where she allegedly accepted delivery.

Randolph allegedly accepted more than $700,000 in numerous shipments. “She fabricated recipient names for the packages,” the FBI agent’s affidavit states, “because receiving so many packages in her own name would look ‘funny.’”

The money was deposited in a U.S. checking account and withdrawn in Jamaica, according to the criminal complaint, or delivered directly to Jamaica, “on Bennett’s behalf.”

Randolph was released on a $25,000 bond, after her arrest in March. She surrendered her travel documents and was ordered to stay within the New York City area.

Bennett was deemed a flight risk and has been detained since his arrest. The prosecution has objected to his proposal for bail.

Bennett, according to a May 3 letter by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Keenan to federal judge Kenneth M. Karas, is a Jamaican citizen with limited family and financial ties to the community. He has family in Jamaica, including a daughter, and has traveled there at least six times since 2015 “in furtherance of the conspiracies with which he is charged.”

“The defendant has every incentive to flee to Jamaica,” Keenan’s letter states, “and very limited incentive to remain in the United States where, if convicted, he faces a lengthy prison term and likely deportation.”