The Federal Trade Commission has asked a United States District Court to halt a cross-border telemarketing operation that targets elderly U.S. consumers in an illegal foreign lottery scheme. The agency will ask the court to order redress for consumers who were victims of the fraud.
The British Columbia-based defendants operated their telemarketing scheme under a variety of business names. The FTC alleges that they targeted elderly consumers, sometimes trying to sell them shares in foreign lottery tickets, other times claiming that consumers had won millions in an Australian or Spanish lottery or a "give-away" sponsored by the Spanish royal family. According to the FTC, the defendants told consumers that in order to receive their winnings, they had to first send money - described variously as taxes, duties, or currency conversion costs - to the defendants. The initial payments ranged from $250 to $999. Consumers who paid were frequently contacted again for more money according to the FTC complaint. For example, one victim paid $999 to participate in the Spanish lottery. One month later, the telemarketers told her she had won $2 million, and should send them $19,300 for "currency conversion fees." One month later, the defendants called the consumer again, saying she had won an additional $2 million but would have to pay an additional $14,000 to collect the $4 million total. The consumer got nothing in return for paying over $30,000 to the defendants. Her experience was not unique, the complaint says.
The FTC has asked the court to issue a preliminary and permanent injunction and to order the defendants to disclose all foreign assets and provide access to records held by financial institutions outside of the United States regarding any of their assets. The FTC also will ask the court to order redress for U.S. consumers.
The FTC's complaint names the following defendants: Dillon Sherif, a.k.a. Nuraldin Shareef Karim, Dillon Shareef, and Dillon Nariman, d.b.a. ALS, GCI, Grand Alliance Service (GAS), PBI, Power Ball Services (PBS), Royal Enterprises, and Royal Marketing Group (RMG); Melissa C. Robinson, d.b.a. Royal Majesty Services (RMS), Royal International Services (RIS), Royal Enterprises, and Mutual American; and Saul Somerstein, a.k.a. Saul Somers, d.b.a. Imperial Marketing Service (IMS), Alliance Marketing Service (AMS), RMG, and World Marketing Service (WMS). The complaint also names Nariman Sabri Mikdad, a.k.a. Nariman Sherif; and Amina Mohamad as relief defendants.
The British Columbia Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General filed a civil action against the defendants in October 2001 and froze over $1 million of their assets and seized property and vehicles in their names. In addition, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, California, has charged Dillon Sherif with mail fraud, wire fraud, and mailing materials related to lotteries, and is seeking his extradition to the United States to face the charges.
The FTC vote to file the complaint was 5-0. It was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle on February 7, 2002. The complaint was filed with the invaluable assistance of the British Columbia Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant actually has violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC File No. 012 3242)