FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) – A Jamaican national was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to his role in swindling more than 150 residents – mostly elderly – out of almost $850,000, the U.S. Attorney announced Wednesday.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy Jr., for the district of S.C., 30-year-old Antonio Thelwell pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was one of 18 defendants in a large telemarketing fraud that targeted elderly victims starting in 2010.
Prosecutors said Thelwell and his conspirators would contact elderly people and falsely inform them that they had won a sweepstakes, but had to pay the taxes and fees in order to claim their bogus winnings.
Through this scam, Thelwell and others were able to persuade victims to wire them significant amounts of money by various means.
In order to make the scam appear legitimate, the perpetrators sent letters which appeared to be from government agencies informing victims that their payments had been received, the release stated.
Not only did Thelwell contact victims directly, but he also recruited other individuals to contact victims, receive money from those victims, and wire the illegally obtained funds to him in Jamaica, according to prosecutors.
Thelwell was directly involved in scamming victims out of over $124,000, and the conspiracy as a whole swindled 157 victims out of over $839,000, prosecutors said.
The prosecution of Thelwell in the United States required that he be extradited from his native country of Jamaica.
U.S. District Judge R. Bryan Harwell sentenced Thelwell to 38 months in federal prison, to be followed three years of court-ordered supervision.
There is no parole in the federal system.