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Nevada woman pleads guilty in $10M+ prize-notification scheme

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Posted at 11:24 PM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 02:53:02-04

NEVADA (KTNV) — A Las Vegas area resident has been charged with perpetrating a prize-notification scheme that bilked victims out of more than $10 million pleaded guilty on Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced.

Andrea Burrow, 50, pleaded guilty 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, with fraudulent prize notices.

The notices led victims to believe that they could claim a large cash prize if they paid a small fee. This was false; victims who paid the fees did not receive anything of value.

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Burrow is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in connection with the scheme, according to authorities.

Three other individuals – Patti Kern, Edgar Del Rio, and Sean O’Connor – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in 2019.

Following these guilty pleas, Burrow was indicted in November 2019 along with five others: Mario Castro, Jose Salud Castro, Salvador Castro, Miguel Castro, and Jose Luis Mendez. The trial of the remaining five defendants is currently scheduled for Sept. 28, 2020.

“The defendant and her co-conspirators exploited the elderly and vulnerable by bombarding them repeatedly with false promises of wealth,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan P. Davis of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the Department’s continuing commitment to bring to justice those who prey upon the elderly.”

The scheme operated from 2010 to February 2018, when postal inspectors executed multiple search warrants and the Department of Justice obtained a court order shutting down the fraudulent mail operation.

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, and each 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. Burrow opened victim return mail sorted cash and other payments and entered data from the victims’ responses into a database that the scheme used to target past victims with more fraudulent mail, according to the indictment.

“Postal Inspectors are dedicated to the pursuit of protecting those who can’t protect themselves. This guilty plea should be a warning to all individuals who use promises of large cash prizes to build their own wealth the U.S. Postal Inspection Service will find you and you will be held accountable,” said Inspector in Charge Delany De Leon-Colon, Criminal Investigations Group

Wednesday's plea took place before U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro. When sentenced, Burrow faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Timothy Finley and Daniel Zytnick of the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson of the District of Nevada.

An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury and is not evidence of guilt. Defendants should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Authorities say if you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11.