LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Las Vegas resident who participated in a fraudulent prize-notification scheme that bilked victims out of more than $9 million was sentenced to federal prison Wednesday, according to the Department of Justice.
U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro sentenced Andrea Burrow, 50, to 36 months in prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release. Judge Navarro also ordered Burrow to give up $272,000.
Burrow pleaded guilty in August 2020 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud based on her participation in a scheme that preyed upon hundreds of thousands of victims, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable. She schemed them by sending them fraudulent prize notices telling them they could claim a large cash prize if they paid a fee of $20 to $30.
Victims who paid the fees did not receive anything of value.
“The Department of Justice has substantially increased its focus and resources on combating schemes that defraud American seniors, prioritizing cases like this one,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice takes every step possible to prosecute perpetrators of elder fraud scams so that it can deliver justice for victims.”
Burrow is the first defendant to be sentenced in connection with the scheme. Three other individuals – Patti Kern, Edgar Del Rio, and Sean O’Connor – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in 2019. Following their guilty pleas, Burrow was indicted in November 2019, along with five codefendants: Mario Castro, Jose Salud Castro, Salvador Castro, Miguel Castro, and Jose Luis Mendez.
“Our office will continue our efforts to dismantle schemes like this one, preying on the vulnerable and elderly,” said U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich of the District of Nevada. “Whether they are operating in Nevada or elsewhere in the country, fraudsters will be apprehended and will face stiff consequences for their callous actions.”
The trial of the remaining five defendants is currently scheduled for June 7, 2021.
Officials say they operated the scheme from 2010 to February 2018. Postal inspectors executed multiple search warrants, and the Department of Justice obtained a court order shutting down the fraudulent mail operation.
“Criminals who target the elderly through heartless scam tactics via the U.S. Mail should know that Postal Inspectors are prepared to unravel their scheme, no matter how complex,” said Inspector in Charge Delany De Léon-Colón of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigations Group. “This case highlights the importance of reporting these scams to authorities, so law enforcement agents like our Postal Inspectors can have the information necessary to help bring justice to hundreds of thousands of victims through these large, successful cases.”
The indictment and other court filings alleged that Mario Castro, Jose Salud Castro, Salvador Castro, Miguel Castro, Jose Luis Mendez, and Edgar Del Rio worked at the printing and mailing businesses that sent the fraudulent mail. Authorities also said they also shared the profits from the fraudulent prize notices with Patti Kern, who helped manage the scheme.
Sean O’ Connor provided laser printing and data processing services to the scheme. According to the indictment, Burrow opened victims’ return mail, sorted the cash, and other payments, and entered data from the victims’ responses into a database. She then used the database to target past victims with more fraudulent mail.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case, which was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Timothy Finley and Daniel Zytnick of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson of the District of Nevada.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).