Monday, October 17, 2016

Woman Formerly Residing in Maryland Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering in Connection with International Lottery Fraud Scheme

Samaiyah Sharron Armistead, who currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, the Department of Justice announced.  The money laundering was part of an international lottery fraud scheme involving co-conspirators in Florida and Jamaica.

As part of her guilty plea, Armistead agreed that had the case gone to trial, the United States would have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that in February 2014, she received $7,500 in cash at the direction of a co-conspirator and then deposited most of that money into two bank accounts controlled by the co-conspirator.  In addition, Armistead received $32,500 in cash on April 22, 2014, at a pickup point in Berlin, Maryland, where she was scheduled to meet a victim of a lottery scheme.  Instead, Armistead was arrested by police at the pickup point after being handed the money by an undercover officer.  

“The Justice Department is committed to combatting international lottery fraud schemes,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Conspiring to launder money is a serious crime because it hides other criminal activity and its success encourages fraudsters to continue their schemes.  The Justice Department will continue to prosecute those who seek to conceal criminal activity through money laundering.”

An information charging Armistead with conspiracy to commit money laundering was filed on Sept. 7.  According to the charging document, Armistead agreed with other persons to knowingly conduct a financial transaction that involved the proceeds of unlawful activity, knowing that the property involved in the transaction represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity and knowing that the transaction was designed to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds of the unlawful activity.  The government was not required to prove that Armistead knew the details of the fraud, but the government did need to establish that Armistead believed the money was connected to an illegal activity.

In this case, the money was proceeds of a fraudulent lottery fraud scheme, involving a co-conspirator in the United States and another in Jamaica.  As part of the scheme, a victim was falsely told that she had won a multi-million dollar lottery prize.  To collect the prize, the victim was fraudulently instructed to pay taxes and other up-front fees.  The victim then sent money to various individuals, including the $40,000 that Armistead ultimately received.

“The US Postal Inspection Service is dedicated as part of it mission to ensure that these types of predatory schemes are investigated aggressively,” said U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Antonio J. Gomez of the Miami Division.  “It is imperative that we continue to work with our partners to protect those vulnerable individuals in our society who fall prey to these schemes so that the U.S. mail isn't used in furtherance of them.”

“This investigation is another example of the importance of state, federal and local law enforcement coordination to identify and dismantle a complex and cross-border criminal enterprise,” said Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel William Pallozzi.  “The dedicated efforts of troopers, federal agents and prosecutors, deputies, and local police officers ended an illegal operation.” 

Armistead faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 when she is sentenced on Dec. 22 at 2 p.m.

This prosecution is part of the Department of Justice’s effort to work with federal and local law enforcement to combat fraudulent lottery schemes in Jamaica that prey on American citizens.  According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Americans have lost tens of millions of dollars to fraudulent foreign lotteries.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer and U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein for the District of Maryland commended the investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Maryland State Police.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney David A. Frank and Counsel Melanie Singh of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan T. Shea.

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