A federal grand jury in Las Vegas returned an indictment yesterday charging three individuals with operating a mail fraud scheme that defrauded thousands of U.S. victims, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable.
According to court documents, Kimberly Stamps, 46, of Gilbert, Arizona; John Kyle Muller, 56, of Boulder, Colorado; and Barbara Trickle, 78, of Las Vegas, conspired to operate a fraudulent mass-mailing scheme that deceived thousands of consumers into paying fees for falsely promised prizes. The indictment alleges that, from 2012 to 2018, the defendants mailed millions of prize notices that led victims to believe they were specially chosen to receive a large cash prize and would receive the prize if they paid a small fee. Victims who paid the requested fee, however, did not receive the promised cash prize. Although the notices appeared to be personalized correspondence, they were merely mass-produced form letters that were bulk-mailed to recipients whose names and addresses appeared on mailing lists purchased and rented by the defendants.
“The department is committed to investigating and prosecuting mass-market schemes that harm seniors and other vulnerable persons,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We devote substantial resources to these investigations and prosecutions, in furtherance of our commitment to protecting the financial security of all Americans.”
“Today’s indictment reflects the commitment of Postal Inspectors to protect older Americans from scams that prey on the vulnerable,” said Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Criminal Investigations Group. “These individuals took advantage of the euphoria of winning a prize to bilk victims out of their money, when in fact they knew there was no prize waiting; all while violating a previous cease and desist order to stop their fraudulent behavior. Now they have been brought to justice for their crimes and will face their comeuppance for their illegal activity.”
The indictment alleges that Stamps and Muller selected and edited the prize-notice mailings, set the mailing schedules, and collected and processed victim payments. Trickle – aware of the deceptive nature of the mailings and that victims were in fact deceived – produced the physical mailings, introduced them to the U.S. Mail, and assisted with managing the data that Stamps and Muller used to target consumers for repeated victimization.
According to the indictment, Stamps, Muller, and Trickle continued to operate their fraudulent mass-mailing scheme in violation of a United States Postal Service cease-and-desist agreement and consent order reached in 2012. The agreement and order had permanently barred Stamps and anyone working with her from mailing fraudulent prize notices.
The indictment charges each of the three defendants with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, along with multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud. The defendants are expected to make their initial appearances on Feb. 15 before a U.S. magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. Each charge in this case carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and a statutory maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss from the offense. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The USPIS investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Carolyn Rice and Charles Dunn of the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch prosecuted this case, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.
The department’s extensive and broad-based efforts to combat elder fraud seeks to halt the widespread losses seniors suffer from fraud schemes. The best method for prevention, however, is by sharing information about the various types of elder fraud schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors, and other seniors who can use that information to protect themselves.
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). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. eastern time. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.