Social Security recipients in Milwaukee and elsewhere were the targets of fraudsters claiming to be from a Jamaican lottery, according to federal court documents.
The recipients were promised big payouts as soon as they forked over an "advance fee," also described as a tax, insurance fee or customs duty that must be paid to release the winnings.
O'Brain Junior Lynch and his fiancée, Yanique Monifia Robinson, are charged in federal court in Milwaukee with running the fraud from Jamaica. Both are in custody and are contesting the charges. Lynch, born in 1984, was until recently a lawful resident of the United States. He also is known as Brian Junior Lynch or "Jake Dinero," according to court documents.
Jamaican lottery schemes are not new and generally target retirement-age citizens in the U.S. The scam has been modified in recent years to take advantage of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's move to require benefit payments be made electronically. Benefit payments can be directed to an account or to a prepaid debit card, called a Direct Express MasterCard.
The scammers convince the victims to route the prepaid debit cards to the address of co-conspirators or unknowing victims, who in turn withdraw money from the cards and send it via wire transfer to Jamaica, according to a criminal complaint.
In March 2012, the office of the inspector general for the Social Security Administration received information that 15 debit cards were sent to a single address in Glendale in the names of various people, and seven were activated and money was withdrawn.
Agents interviewed Craig Hossalla, who lives at the Glendale home where the cards were sent, according to the criminal complaint. Hossalla said he was victim of the Jamaican lottery scam in 2011. He was told he won $2.5 million plus two Mercedes-Benz vehicles but had to pay taxes first.
Hossalla admitted he received several prepaid SSA cards in the mail. Records showed Hossalla sent Lynch $33,167 in 54 wire transfers between January 2011 and April 2012, according to the complaint.
Further research showed Lynch received $36,091 between February 2008 and November 2011 from 33 people.
Hossalla, who is not charged, made several calls to a man he knew as "Jake Dinero." The calls were recorded by federal agents. While he knew the contact as Dinero, Hossalla said he wired money to "Obrain Lynch."
Lynch and Robinson were arrested earlier this year on a visit to the U.S. Lynch's attorney, Daniel E. Meylink, declined to comment. Lynch and Robinson are scheduled to go to trial in June.