A West Hempstead man pleaded guilty to federal charges in a Boston courtroom Friday in connection with his role in a fake lottery scam targeting senior citizens.
Wilder Vladimir Merelan, 29, admitted he helped scheme to victimize people ranging in age from 69 to 91 between 2012 and 2015, according to the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office.
The victims were told they had won millions in a lottery but had to pay taxes first to the Internal Revenue Service before they could get their share of the money, prosecutors said.
Sixteen people sent more than $830,000 to Merelan, who the victims were told was a “sub agent” for the IRS, according to prosecutors. Merelan kept part of the money and distributed the rest to his co-conspirators, including people in Jamaica, where authorities said the scam appears to have roots.
Several elderly residents, including one from Massachusetts, told authorities they received a call from a Jamaica-based phone number alerting them to their purported winnings.
Merelan pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit tax and mail fraud.
The charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, plus 3 years of supervised release and a fine of at least $250,000.
Merelan is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 10.