A federal grand jury formally charged four people in connection to a Myrtle Beach-area telemarketing scheme that took more than $660,000 from senior citizens, acting U.S. Attorney General for South Carolina Rhett DeHart announced Thursday.
Fabian Gray, 29, Avia Reid, 29, Khalelah Powell, 20, and Romaine Gordon, 29, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The indictment states the four defendants conspired to defraud more than 100 victims, most of them seniors, since June 2015. In total, at least $665,000 was stolen in the scheme, authorities said.
Through telemarketing, the defendants falsely informed people that they had won large sums of money and then convinced them that they had to pay fees in advance to receive their award, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The indictment states the defendants operated under the guise of real sweepstakes companies, financial institutions and even federal agencies to trick the victims. After deceiving them into paying these fake fees through prepaid cards, money orders, cash, personal checks or wire transfers, the defendants wire transferred the funds to co-conspirators in Jamaica and elsewhere.
The defendants could receive the maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment per count and a $225,000 fine. They could face up to an additional 10 years for the first 12 counts of the indictment because the victims were older than 55.
All of the defendants will be detained until they are brought to trial, authorities said. During the detention hearing of several of the defendants, authorities discovered all of them are originally from Jamaica and at least two are in the U.S. without legal status.
Homeland Security Investigations investigated this case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Shoemake is prosecuting it.