Federal authorities have ordered two Long Island ringleaders and others to end a mail-fraud scheme that targeted the elderly by promising multimillion dollar cash prizes in exchange for a fee but stiffed the victims out of the winnings, officials said Tuesday.
Anthony Kafeiti, of Port Jefferson, and Steven L. Diaz, of Mount Sinai, were named as coordinators of the operation that grossed $4.8 million in fraudulent proceedings over the past year, according to officials with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Central Islip. Charles Kafeiti, of Scottsdale, Arizona, was also named as a coordinator. Authorities did not say whether the Kafeitis are related.
The court filed permanent injunctions against the three men; two Westbury residents, Carmine and Elizabeth Maietta; and 10 other individuals and companies that authorities said took part in the scheme. The other defendants and companies were located in Germany; North Las Vegas, Nevada; and Vancouver, British Columbia, officials said.
"These permanent injunctions stop unscrupulous individuals and companies from conducting fraudulent solicitation schemes that targeted the elderly in our district and throughout the country and the world,” said Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, in a statement. “This Office will continue to use all available resources to protect victims of get-rich-quick schemes.”
The fraudulent solicitations targeted victims all over the world but “primarily victimized the elderly or vulnerable,” officials said. Although the victims sent in requested fees through cash, check or credit card, they never got the promised prizes, officials said.
“The complaint alleged that, in the last year, the schemes collectively grossed an estimated $4.8 million in fraudulent proceeds,” officials said.
Attorneys for the four Long Island defendants did not return calls for comment Tuesday night.
A spokesman for the Eastern District, John Marzulli, said the alleged scheme is being handled as a civil case. When asked why it is not a criminal case, Marzulli said he would not comment on prosecutorial decisions.
The defendants mailed, or assisted in mailing, thousands of solicitations falsely stating the recipients had won multimillion-dollar cash prizes or other items of value but first needed to pay the fee to claim their winnings, authorities said.
The permanent injunctions prohibit the defendants from sending fraudulent solicitations or receiving, handling, or opening any victims’ mail responding to the solicitations. The defendants also are forbidden from using or benefiting from lists of previous victims who responded, officials said. The injunction authorizes the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to open mail detained by law enforcement and return payments to alleged victims, authorities said.
“These defendants were making misleading promises of easy money,” said Delany De Leon-Colon, inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Criminal Investigations Group, in a statement. “Anyone who engages in deceptive practices like this should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable, regardless of where they are.”