Steamboat Springs Four Routt County residents accused of defrauding elderly U.S. citizens out of tens of thousands of dollars won't be prosecuted locally.
Elizabeth Oldham, 14th Judicial District Attorney, said her office dismissed the charges Monday after the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado issued a 12-count indictment July 7 against Troy Cox, Catrina Graham, Simon Guthrie and Yanique Mendez.
Each was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, nine counts of mail fraud and one count of forfeiture, which requires the defendants to forfeit all property that would be paid as restitution to victims.
The nine counts of mail fraud came from victims living in Iowa, Texas, Michigan and South Carolina, according to the indictment. Those counts don't indicate the exact number of times mail fraud was committed by Cox, Graham, Guthrie and Mendez, just what was listed in the indictment, said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The indictment states that from Jan. 1 to June 1, the four defendants used illegally obtained mailing lists to inform elderly citizens by U.S. mail, e-mail and telephone that they won the "Australian Lottery." The indictment indicated that they instructed the victims to pay taxes on their winnings - as much as $33,500 - through the mail, Western Union or Money Gram services to an address or post office box in Steamboat Springs before a certain date.
Between January and April, the indictment states that Guthrie and Mendez sent 67 U.S. Express Mail envelopes to intended victims. During that time period, it alleges that Cox, Guthrie and Mendez received wire transfers totaling more than $117,000 from victims. One victim sent Mendez more than $70,000, according to the indictment.
The government also alleges that Cox, Graham, Guthrie and Mendez sent a combined total of nearly $118,000 in "illegal proceeds from the lottery fraud scheme" to co-conspirators in Jamaica.
Asked if any of the co-conspirators had been charged, Dorschner said "the investigation is ongoing."
The charges that were dismissed locally against Cox, Graham, Guthrie and Mendez included violation of the Colorado Organized Crime Act and multiple counts of theft and/or and conspiracy to commit theft.
Oldham said the case was handed over to the U.S. Attorney's Office because penalties are more severe at the federal level. She added that federal agencies had the resources and jurisdiction to continue investigating the case in Jamaica, where a portion of the proceeds from the scam was sent.
If convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, Cox, Graham, Guthrie and Mendez would face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit money laundering charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine or twice the value of the property involved, whichever is greater. If convicted of each mail fraud and forfeiture count, the four defendants would face a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. Sentences would be determined at the discretion of the judge, Dorschner said.
Cox, Graham, Guthrie and Mendez likely will appear in federal court in Denver later this week.