Charlotte, North Carolina - Three individuals were sentenced to prison for their roles in an $11 million telemarketing scheme that defrauded primarily elderly victims in the United States from call centers in Costa Rica.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray of the Western District of North Carolina, Inspector in Charge David M. McGinnis of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Charlotte Division, Special Agent in Charge Bryant Jackson of IRS Criminal Investigation’s (CI) Cincinnati Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Matthew D. Line of IRS-CI’s Charlotte Field Office and Special Agent in Charge John Strong of the FBI’s Charlotte Field Office made the announcement.
Donald Dodt, 76, originally of Cleveland, Ohio, Thomas Sniffen, 58, originally of Peekskill, New York, and Michael Saxon, 50, originally of Ontario, Canada, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. of the Western District of North Carolina to 90 months, 114 months and 75 months in prison, respectively. Judge Cogburn also ordered restitution in the amount of $7 million for Dodt, $11,236,857.65 for Sniffen and $2,593,574.02 for Saxon to be paid jointly and severally with their co-conspirators.
Following a five-day trial in May 2019, Dodt was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, two counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and 10 counts of international money laundering. In April 2019, Sniffen pleaded guilty to all charges in the 31-count indictment charging conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, substantive counts of mail fraud and wire fraud, international money laundering and conspiracy to commit international money laundering. In May 2019, Saxon pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
According to the evidence presented at both Dodt’s trial and the sentencing hearings, and the factual bases in support of Sniffen’s and Saxon’s guilty pleas, Dodt, Sniffen and Saxon conspired together to commit the fraud and worked in a call center in Costa Rica. While falsely posing as federal judges, representatives of the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and other federal agencies, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, they contacted victims in the United States — primarily senior citizens — to tell them that that they had supposedly won a substantial “sweepstakes” prize. After convincing victims that they stood to receive a significant financial reward, the members of the conspiracy told victims that they needed to make a series of up-front cash payments before collecting, purportedly for items like insurance fees, taxes and import fees. The co-conspirators used a variety of means to conceal their identity, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services provided by Dodt that made it appear as if they were calling from Washington, D.C., and other places in the United States.
At sentencing, it was determined that Dodt, Sniffen, Saxon and their co-conspirators collectively stole more than $11 million in total from victims.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS-CI and the FBI with assistance from the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jennifer Farer and Philip Trout of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Former Fraud Section Trial Attorney William Bowne previously prosecuted the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina provided substantial assistance with this matter.