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US-Costa Rican man preyed on elderly in million-dollar sweepstakes fraud

A dual citizen of the United States and Costa Rica pleaded guilty Monday to a $1.88 million sweepstakes fraud scheme that targeted elderly U.S. residents, according a statement from the U.S. Justice Department.

Geoffrey Alexander Ramer, 34, of Costa Rica, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer of the Western District of North Carolina to wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the fraud scheme. Ramer’s sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date.

Between 2008 and December 2013, Ramer and his co-conspirators called U.S. residents impersonating a U.S. federal agency to tell them they had won a large cash prize. The swindlers, based in Costa Rica, told the victims that they had to send money to Costa Rica for a purported refundable insurance fee before they could claim their prize. Ramer did not stop there. Afterwards, the scam artists called to say that the prize amount had gone up and would require additional fake fees to claim it. Hundreds of people were taken by the scam before they ran out of money or realized they had been had.

Ramer’s fraud ring reportedly caused some $1.88 million in loses to victims.

Although the scheme was based in Costa Rica, the scammers used VoIP phones that would display a false (202) area code, indicated that the calls would have come from the Washington, D.C. area.

“Ramer preyed upon some of the most vulnerable members of our society, callously and repeatedly defrauding elderly Americans by stealing their life savings,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “We hope that today’s guilty plea brings some solace to his victims. This prosecution sends a clear message to the next would-be con-artist: in protecting our citizens, the reach of the Justice Department will not stop at our country’s borders.”

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