NEW YORK — Seven people have pleaded guilty in a lottery telemarketing fraud that U.S. prosecutors say bilked mostly elderly victims out of an estimated $2 million.
Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Tuesday the seven — all residents of Israel — carried out the fraud in 2007 and 2008.
Lior Orgad, David Yamin, and Mor Galanti pleaded guilty in New York, while Guy Mayo, Elad Mayo, Asi Almakias and Yaniv Kalbers entered guilty pleas March 15, the U.S. Justice Department said in a news release.
Prosecutors said the defendants purchased from list brokers the names and contact information of U.S. residents who subscribed to sweepstakes lotteries, and then falsely notified hundreds of prospective victims they had won substantial cash prizes but would need to pay fees and taxes before they could collect their purported winnings.
All seven defendants had been arrested in Israel in September 2008 and were extradited to the United States in November 2010. An eighth defendant, Shai Kadosh, is currently a fugitive, prosecutors said.
Guy Mayo, Elad Mayo, Almakias and Orgad face as much as 20 years in prison. Kalbers, Yamin and Galanti gave prisons terms of as much as five years. In addition, each defendants agreed to forfeit about $1.9 million, the Justice Department said.
"These defendants bet that they would strike it rich by preying upon some of America's most vulnerable citizens — the elderly — but they gambled and lost," Bharara said.