US Department of Justice
LOS ANGELES – A Vancouver man has been sentenced to 171 months in federal prison for running an international lottery scam that took in $1.8 million from mostly elderly victims who were lured to the scheme with promises of huge winnings in international lotteries,
Dillon Sherif, 49, an Iraqi national whose birth name is Nuraldin Shareef Karim, was sentenced late Monday by United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson. In addition to the 14¼-year prison sentence, Judge Pregerson ordered Sherif to pay $924,613 in restitution to his victims.
Monday’s sentencing ends a long legal saga in which Sherif operated bogus lottery companies in Canada and Spain and jumped bail twice before being arrested in England last year.
Sherif was extradited from England late last year and in June pleaded guilty in United States District Court to three counts of mail fraud involving telemarketing fraud against the elderly. According to his plea agreement, in 1999 Sherif started operating various telemarketing companies based in British Columbia under names such as “Power Ball Services.” Sherif and telemarketers working under him called elderly victims in the United States, telling them they had won, or had a good chance of winning, a large sum of money in foreign lotteries. However, the victims were told that they had to pay for taxes or other fees to collect their winnings. Once victims sent in money, Sherif and his telemarketers often “reloaded” them by repeatedly calling those victims again, falsely telling them they had won additional money, but would receive their winnings only if they sent additional payments. The scheme that started in 1999 caused approximately $1.8 million in losses.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors outlined Sherif’s history, which includes a 1998 federal court order in Seattle that prohibited him from being involved in the sale of lottery tickets after he was involved in another British Columbia-based scam that defrauded 2,744 victims out of approximately $5 million.
After the court in Seattle entered the judgment against him, Sherif fled Canada for Spain, where he continued his telemarketing fraud against elderly Americans and Canadians, according to the government’s sentencing memorandum. Authorities in Spain filed criminal charges against Sherif, but he fled Spain, eventually returning to British Columbia, where he started up the scheme that led to this week’s sentencing.
The Los Angeles case was filed in September 2001. The following month, Sherif was arrested in Canada on those charges, but he was released on bond within a day. Sherif subsequently failed to appear in court and was a fugitive until December 2008, at which time he was arrested in London.
At Monday’s hearing, Judge Pregerson said that he had never seen anyone with such disrespect for the legal system, adding that Sherif played “international hopscotch” to avoid prosecution for his fraud schemes.
As part of Sherif’s sentencing, prosecutors presented documents that describe the mental, physical and financial damage he caused to his victims. One victim impact statement filed by a 96-year-old woman describes how Sherif personally convinced her – knowing that she was disabled, elderly and sickly – to sell her house and give him the money, making her virtually homeless, unable to pay for her medical care, and wondering from where her next meal would come.
The case against Sherif was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Project Emptor Task Force, and the Federal Trade Commission.