Meridian Star

December 11, 2013

Court orders new sentencing in prize money scam

HOLBROOK MOHR, Associated Press
Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. —

A federal appeals court has ordered the resentencing of two men convicted in Mississippi in a multistate telemarketing scam in which victims were told they won cash prizes but had to pay taxes and fees to the scammers to claim the money.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Monday that incorrect sentencing guidelines were used for Kevin Coe and Jarvis Jones.

Both men were sentenced in 2011 to more than seven years in prison.

The appeals panel said the U.S. District Court judge in Aberdeen, Miss., realized the error and tried to correct it, but didn't do so within the required 14-day period.

The appeals court ordered that the men be resentenced, permitting the district judge to correct the procedural error.

The 5th Circuit said resentencing was important because it "would seriously affect the fairness, integrity and public reputation of judicial proceedings if we did not allow the District Court to correct an error it recognized and attempted to correct."

At least eight people were convicted in Mississippi in the scheme, which prosecutors said netted tens of thousands of dollars from victims in California, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Vermont. Some of the money made its way to Mississippi.

Authorities said the scam began with a call to tell victims they had won a large cash prize. The victims then were told to wire money to cover fees and taxes on the supposed prize. The money was often shifted around the country by the schemers.

The scam usually got about $2,800 to $2,900 per payment.

Some people paid more than once, according to the indictment. A woman in California allegedly sent more than $12,000 in three payments.