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Las Vegas, Henderson men sentenced for multimillion-dollar prize notice scheme

By Michael Bell

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    LAS VEGAS, Nevada (KVVU) — Three men were sentenced Friday for a prize-notification scheme that stole more than $10 million from elderly and vulnerable victims, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.

Mario Castro, 55, of Las Vegas, was sentenced to 240 months in prison. Miguel Castro, 58, of Las Vegas, was sentenced to 235 months in prison. Jose Luis Mendez, 49, of Henderson, was sentenced to 168 months in prison.

In April, a jury found the three men guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and multiple individual counts of mail fraud.

According to court documents, the three defendants and other co-conspirators printed and mailed millions of fraudulent prize notices that led their victims to believe that they could claim a large cash prize if they paid a fee of about $20 to $25. This was false; victims who paid the fees did not receive anything of value.

Once victims fell prey to the scheme, defendants bombarded them with more fraudulent prize notices. The men produced the fake prize notices at their warehouse in Las Vegas. The defendants received millions of dollars of money from victims.

“For eight years, Mario Castro, Miguel Castro, and Jose Luis Mendez used lies and deceit to steal from the elderly and vulnerable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The jury’s verdict and today’s sentences hold them accountable for their predatory conduct. The department is committed to protecting consumers from mass-mailing schemes.”

The defendants operated the scheme from 2010 to February 2018, when postal inspectors executed multiple search warrants and the Department of Justice obtained a court order shutting down the fraudulent mail operation. Mario Castro, Miguel Castro, and Mendez worked at the printing and mailing businesses that sent the fraudulent mail and shared the profits from the fraudulent prize notices.

The defendants and their co-conspirators ignored cease and desist orders from the United States Postal Service that prohibited their mailing companies from sending fraudulent mail. The defendants responded to the cease and desist orders by changing the names of their companies and using straw owners to hide their continuing fraud.

“These defendants took part in a conspiracy that preyed upon and deceived elderly consumers with repeated promises of large cash prizes,” said U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson for the District of Nevada. “We are committed to working with the Consumer Protection Branch and U.S. Postal Inspection Service to protect vulnerable members of our community, and to investigate and prosecute fraudsters who target seniors.”

Four other people previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with this prize notice scheme: Patti Kern, 65, of Henderson; Andrea Burrow, 43, of Las Vegas; Edgar Del Rio, 45, of Las Vegas; and Sean O’Connor, 54, of Las Vegas.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case.

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