Sentencing Continues In $9.5 Million Sweepstakes Elder Scam


Sentencing is continuing in an elder scam case that involved fraudulent sweepstakes winnings.

According to an official release from the IRS, Tony Akinbobola, of Toronto, Ontario, was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering. In addition to his prison sentence, he was ordered to pay $111,870.25 in restitution.

Akinbobola has been in federal custody since February 2022.
Photo bySteven Puetzer/Getty Images

Co-conspirator Donna Lundy, of Dallas, Texas, was sentenced to 30 months and ordered to pay $111,870.25 in restitution on a wire fraud charge.

Previously, the scam's leader, Harry Cole, was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison in February 2022. A fourth co-conspirator, Joel Calvin, was sentenced to three years in December 2022.

Per the IRS, the scheme itself operated between 2012 and 2016. It involved purchasing lists of potential elderly victims -- all over age 60 -- and their mailing addresses. Conspirators based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada sent packages containing fraudulent sweepstakes information to their colleagues in the United States.

The mailers included a fraudulent sweepstakes winnings checks, typically for the amount of $8,000, issued to the victim.

Victims were told to deposit the money into their bank accounts, then to immediately withdraw $5,000 and $7,000, separately, and sent the funds to a "sweepstakes representative" to facilitate the collection of the prize. By the time banks realized the checks were fraudulent, the money had already been sent.
Photo byCharles O'Rear/Getty Images

To date, over 300 victims have been identified with losses totaling over $9.5 million.

U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas commended authorities, saying, "I applaud the hard work of the investigating agencies in bringing these defendants to justice—and thank Canadian authorities and the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs for their help in the extradition of Akinbobola."

"This case demonstrates my office's commitment to hold all those responsible for defrauding our senior citizens," Esparza continued, "Whether supplying the personal information and addresses of elderly citizens or assisting the scam by laundering funds in Canada, our office will pursue all of those that enable these vicious scams to steal from our seniors."

The case is reminiscent of another elder scam involving sweepstakes winnings in California.

What do you think about this elder scam?

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