Adrian Lawrence, also known as the “Mastermind”, was recently extradited from Panama to the United States to face charges related to a lottery scam that has allegedly stolen millions of dollars from elderly people. After arriving in the US, he appeared in federal court in New York to face a variety of charges, including conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud.
This type of scam has been around for decades, and Lawrence and his associates are believed to have been running it for years. It’s possible that there are more victims than authorities are aware of, and if convicted, Lawrence could face up to twenty years in prison.
The scheme involves deceiving victims into believing they had won prizes from Publishers Clearing House (PCH) or federal lotteries. The victims were then asked to send money to various bank accounts located across the country to cover the “shipping and processing fees” of their winnings. Lawrence and his conspirators then kept a percentage of the money for themselves.
At least 50 people, whose average age was 81, sent Lawrence and his accomplices over $6 million. He utilized several aliases, email addresses, and phone numbers to carry out the scam.
The fraud is still occurring today, despite having been around for over fifty years. With the help of the internet, scammers are able to contact their victims anonymously, and the ITRC reported a 240% increase in PCH fraud cases as of last September.
Publishers Clearing House has given away over $315 million in cash since its inception, which is part of the reason it continues to remain a successful scam. Victims of this fraud may not only lose money, but they could also become targets of identity theft, as they are often asked to reveal their social security numbers and other personal data.