An attempt to defraud a Riverhead victim and thousands of others across the country by sending fraudulent prize-promotion mailings led to a guilty plea this week for one of the suspects who led the scheme, according to federal officials.
Shaun Sillivan, 37, of Merrick pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison as well as $500,000 in forfeiture and a fine of up to $250,000, officials said.
The scam targeted mostly elderly victims who believed they could claim large cash prizes in exchange for a modest fee. Mr. Sullivan and others sent fraudulent prize-promotion mailings to thousands of victims between December 2010 and July 2016, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The mailings appeared to be personally addressed to the individuals whose names were on consumer lists Mr. Sullivan obtained.
During that time period the scammers received more than $30 million from victims.
Mr. Sullivan and a co-defendant, Tully Lovisa, rented and maintained private mailboxes to receive return mailings the victims sent. They created shell companies for the purported senders of the mailings and hid their involvement in the business by using straw owners and aliases, officials said.
Mr. Lovisa, of Huntington, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud last October and is awaiting sentencing.
An indictment against Mr. Sullivan was filed last July, which notes that a “Anderson, Burges & Smith prize-promotion mailing” was sent by U.S. mail to a victim in Riverhead, who’s only identified by the initials “S.H.” The mailing was sent to the Riverhead victim in February 2016, according to the indictment. The shell companies went by a variety of different names.
Mr. Sullivan was originally facing charges of money laundering, wire fraud and perjury among others.
“Sullivan preyed on consumers, many of them vulnerable and elderly, by sending fraudulent mailings designed to trick them into believing they had won a cash prize; he then lined his own pockets with the fees he extracted from the victims,” said United States Attorney Richard Donoghue in a statement.
The mailings typically contained a “Consumer Disclosure” on the back of up to two to three paragraphs that did not correct false and misleading statements. The mailings directed victims to pay a “processing” or “delivery” fee of generally $20 or $25. The mailings included pre-addressed return envelopes for the victims to send payment by cash, checks or money order, according to the indictment.
Some of the pre-addressed return envelopes listed addresses in Netherlands. The payments were then sent by a private interstate carrier to an individual in East Rockaway, who is not named in the indictment. That person then gave the packages to Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Lovisa.
Many victims received repeated fraudulent mailings.