A jury in Miami has found three South Florida men guilty of mail fraud linked to a scam involving over $25 million and a phony sweepstakes. More than 100,000 people, mostly seniors, were victims of the scheme.
The men convicted are Marcus Pradel, 41,of Fort Lauderdale, Matthew Pisoni, 44, also of Fort Lauderdale and Victor Ramirez, 37, of Aventura.
According to information from the U.S. Department of Justice, the men deceitfully informed individuals via the U.S. mail that they had won a large sweepstakes, and instructed them to pay $20-$50 to receive their funds. Remarkably, more than $25 million was collected from a staggering number of responses.
The victims paid the fees to the men’s fraudulent companies through cash, check, or money orders. The men involved used independent check-cashing services, and sham bank accounts to process the money.
Documents reveal that some of the more than 100,000 victims were from outside of the United States.
One of the men found guilty, Matthew Pisoni, is the son-in-law of the late self-help speaker, Wayne Dyer. Pisoni is thought to have been the orchestrator of the scheme.
A fourth man, John Leon, 49, of Wilton Manors, had previously pleaded guilty to his part in the scam. The judge would not allow any of his testimony to be included in the 5-week court trial.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. All four of the South Florida men are scheduled to be sentenced in Miami in October.