3 Nevada men sentenced for multimillion dollar prize notice scheme

The trio operated the fraudulent scheme for eight years; from 2010 to February 2018
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Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 2:05 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (KOLO) - Three southern Nevada men have been sentenced for running a multi-million-dollar prize notice scheme.

The court found that 55-year-old Mario Castro of Las Vegas, 58-year-old Miguel Castro of Las Vegas, and 49-year-old Jose Luis Mendez of Henderson stole more than $10 million from elderly and vulnerable victims.

Mario was given 240 months in prison, while Miguel was given 235 months. Mendez was sentenced to 168 months in prison. A jury found all three guilty in April of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and multiple individual counts of mail fraud.

The court found the three defendants, as well as other co-defendants, printed and mailed millions of fraudulent prize notices that led their victims to believe they could claim a large cash prize if they paid a fee between $20 and $25.

Once the initial payment was received, the three bombarded them with more fraudulent notices.

The fake notices were produced in a Las Vegas warehouse.

“For eight years, Mario Castro, Miguel Castro, and Jose Luis Mendez used lies and deceit to steal from the elderly and vulnerable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The jury’s verdict and today’s sentences hold them accountable for their predatory conduct. The department is committed to protecting consumers from mass-mailing schemes.”

The trio operated the fraudulent scheme from 2010 to February 2018. They were stopped when postal inspectors executed multiple search warrants, and the DOJ obtained a court order shutting the operation down.

The three men refused to shut down the business despite the court order, and instead changed the name of their companies and used straw owners to hide the fact that they were continuing to operate.

“These defendants took part in a conspiracy that preyed upon and deceived elderly consumers with repeated promises of large cash prizes,” said U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson for the District of Nevada. “We are committed to working with the Consumer Protection Branch and U.S. Postal Inspection Service to protect vulnerable members of our community, and to investigate and prosecute fraudsters who target seniors.”

“Postal Inspectors are steadfast in our dedication to protecting the American people from prize-notice schemes and other mail fraud schemes, especially those that target seniors and their hard-earned savings” said Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the Criminal Investigations Group of the United States Postal Inspection Service. “We work to rid the mail stream from fraudulent mass mailing solicitations and make the mail safe for all.”

A number of other people also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with this case: Patti Kern, 65, of Henderson, Nevada; Andrea Burrow, 43, of Las Vegas; Edgar Del Rio, 45, of Las Vegas; and Sean O’Connor, 54, of Las Vegas.