Edna Schmeets from Harvey, North Dakota, lost her life savings to a Jamaican Lottery Scam. She is 90 years old. She has been paid back only $287 so far–but she’s owed $400,000.
How did this happen?
Scamming the Elderly
Schmeets’ case launched an investigation into a large-scale Jamaican lottery scam, prosecuting 31 defendants who scammed more than 100 elderly Americans.
14 Jamaican nationals were extradited from the United States as part of the massive bust. The offenders operated in 31 different states, the investigation has found.
The scammers would call the victims and tell them they had won money in a lottery. Schmeets was told she had won $19 million. The catch was she had to pay advance fees to collect the money.
“I think about it every day. I always keep beating myself up,” Schmeets said. “How could you be so dang stupid?”
Schmeets and other victims sent large checks to the scammers. She also sent her credit card number and cashed out her life insurance policies to afford the “fees.” Eventually, her children figured out what was happening and called the authorities.
$6 Million Lost
The ringleader of the scam, Lavrick Willocks, was sentenced to six years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution. It’s estimated that this particular scam amassed about $6 million from all its victims.
Paul Cassell, a special counsel to the National Crime Victim Law Institute, said in an interview, “Sadly, what you’re seeing here is all too typical, where victims are promised substantial restitution, but the reality is much less.”
Offenders in these types of cases rarely have the means to pay restitution. In this case, most of the defendants accepted plea deals.
Unfortunately, victims of this type of scam rarely get their full money back. Assistant U.S. attorney Nick Chase reported that the scammers have already spent most of the money they stole.
Edna Schmeets, therefore, is likely to never see her life savings returned.
Drew Wrigley, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota, said, “If we could monetize our gratitude, she’d be paid back in full immediately.” After all, Schmeets’ case is the one that sparked the investigation into this particular scam.
Unfortunately, scamming elderly folks out of their money through scams like this has become more and more common. Edna Schmeets represents a great number of Americans who have been robbed of their life’s earnings by criminals.