WASHINGTON (JUSTICE.GOV) – Three individuals were sentenced to prison for their roles in a US$11 million telemarketing scheme that defrauded primarily elderly victims in the United States from call centers in Costa Rica.

Donald Dodt. From Linkdin Costa Rica

Donald Dodt, 76, originally of Cleveland, Ohio, Thomas Sniffen, 58, originally of Peekskill, New York, and Michael Saxon, 50, originally of Ontario, Canada, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. of the Western District of North Carolina to 90 months, 114 months and 75 months in prison, respectively.

Judge Cogburn also ordered restitution in the amount of US$7 million for Dodt, US$11,236,857.65 for Sniffen and US$2,593,574.02 for Saxon to be paid jointly and severally with their co-conspirators.

Following a five-day trial in May 2019, Dodt was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, two counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and 10 counts of international money laundering.

In April 2019, Sniffen pleaded guilty to all charges in the 31-count indictment charging conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, substantive counts of mail fraud and wire fraud, international money laundering and conspiracy to commit international money laundering. In May 2019, Saxon pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering.

According to the evidence presented at both Dodt’s trial and the sentencing hearings, and the factual bases in support of Sniffen’s and Saxon’s guilty pleas, Dodt, Sniffen and Saxon conspired together to commit the fraud and worked in a call center in Costa Rica.

While falsely posing as federal judges, representatives of the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and other federal agencies, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, they contacted victims in the United States — primarily senior citizens — to tell them that that they had supposedly won a substantial “sweepstakes” prize.

After convincing victims that they stood to receive a significant financial reward, the members of the conspiracy told victims that they needed to make a series of up-front cash payments before collecting, purportedly for items like insurance fees, taxes and import fees.

The co-conspirators used a variety of means to conceal their identities, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services provided by Dodt that made it appear as if they were calling from Washington, D.C., and other places in the United States.

At sentencing, it was determined that Dodt, Sniffen, Saxon, and their co-conspirators collectively stole more than US$11 million in total from victims.