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New Jersey man pleads guilty in mass-mail fraud scheme

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A New Jersey man pleaded guilty yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, for operating a mass-mailing scheme that victimized older Americans.

According to court documents, Ryan Young, 40, of Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, operated a mail fraud scheme in which he mailed out letters falsely notifying recipients that they were entitled to receive unclaimed funds worth millions of dollars, a portion of a multi-million-dollar legal settlement, or a prize, in exchange for payment of a small fee of $30 to $40. The solicitation letters stated that they were sent by an organization tasked with providing notice and facilitating delivery of the funds or prize. Young did not deliver funds to any of the victims who sent payments in response to these letters. Instead, Young sent a booklet providing publicly available information regarding government Unclaimed Property Divisions in various states; a booklet providing publicly available information regarding a few class action settlements; or a flyer regarding online restaurant coupons. According to court documents, Young fraudulently obtained more than $1.6 million from victims of the scheme between March 2019 and May 2022.

The court documents further allege that Young operated this scheme while he was on pretrial release awaiting sentencing in a separate criminal case, in which he was charged with operating a similar fraud scheme. On Feb. 13, 2018, Young pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, for his role in a large-scale international mail fraud scheme that took $50 million from victims between 2011 and 2016. As part of that scheme, Young sent fraudulent prize notification letters to victims in the United States and numerous other countries. The letters falsely claimed recipients had won money or valuable prizes, such as luxury cars. Victims were instructed to send small processing fees – typically $20 or $25 – to claim the prizes. Many victims received nothing; others received only a cheap piece of jewelry or a report listing unrelated sweepstakes.

“The defendant in this case operated multiple fraud schemes, collectively depriving vulnerable Americans out of more than $50 million,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Justice Department and its federal law enforcement partners are committed to investigating and prosecuting those who target vulnerable American consumers for financial gain.” 

“Mass marketing scams frequently target elderly or vulnerable citizens. Fraudsters may think they can anonymously siphon money from their victims but today’s guilty plea tells a different story,” said Inspector in Charge Chris Nielsen of United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)’s Philadelphia Division. “Through the efforts of Postal Inspectors in Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.; DOJ prosecutors; and the Fort Lee, New Jersey Police Department, we have successfully unraveled a complex mail fraud operation.”

Young will be sentenced on July 19 before U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack in Central Islip, New York. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.

The USPIS investigated the case. Senior Trial Attorney Ann Entwistle and Assistant Director John W. Burke of the Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanisha Payne for the Eastern District of New York is handling asset forfeiture. 

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