AFRICANGLOBE – A New York judge jailed two Israelis on Monday for orchestrating an elaborate international lottery scam that defrauded elderly Americans out of more than US$8 million in life savings.
US district judge Loretta Preska sentenced Avi Ayache and Yaron Bar to 13 years and 12 years respectively after they pleaded guilty to four years of mail and wire fraud.
US prosecutors say the duo were ring leaders of a 12-person scam based in Israel, which tricked Americans into signing away more than US$8 million, which was squirrelled away illegally to bank accounts in Cyprus, Israel and Uganda.
Top New York federal prosecutor Preet Bharara said it was a “predatory group” that conned elderly people in the US into believing they were lottery winners.
“Preying on their victims’ dreams of financial comfort, Ayache and Bar bilked them out of substantial portions of their life savings,” Bharara said in a statement.
“Now Ayache and Bar will spend a substantial portion of their lives in prison,” he added.
From 2005 through 2009, the defendants called US residents who played sweepstake lotteries, reading from a script to falsely say they had won a large cash prize.
But to obtain the prize they were told to pay thousands, sometimes tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and taxes, totalling more than US$8 million.
To pull the wool over their victims’ eyes they invented the names of sham New York law firms, as well as aliases and call forwarding numbers to mask the fact that they were in Israel. They even sent flowers and gift baskets to some of victims to “congratulate” them on their purported lottery winnings, a ploy to reel them in even further.
The judge also ordered Ayache and Bar to forfeit US$8,2 million and pay restitution of US$8,2 million.