A 90-year-old North Dakota woman who was robbed of her life savings in a Jamaican lottery scam says she has been paid back only $287 of the $400,000 she’s owed. The case of Edna Schmeets of Harvey, a small North Dakota town about 75 miles northeast of Bismarck, launched what became the first large-scale Jamaican lottery scam prosecution in the US. All 31 defendants have been prosecuted, the AP reports, including 14 Jamaican nationals who were extradited from that country. Authorities identified victims of the scam in 31 states, with more than 100 mostly elderly American bilked out of more than $6 million. “I’m so disappointed,” Scmeets said of the small payment. She said she was told another check for $138 is pending.
Prosecutors pledged to get at least some of the victims’ money back. But offenders’ inability to pay often limits collection. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, many victims wait years before receiving any money, and many never receive the full amount owed. “Sadly, what you’re seeing here is all too typical, where victims are promised substantial restitution, but the reality is much less,” said Paul Cassell of the National Crime Victim Law Institute. One defendant was convicted of making death threats to victims, as well, per the Justice Department. Drew Wrigley, US attorney for North Dakota, empathized with Schmeets. “If we could monetize our gratitude, she’d be paid back in full immediately,” said Drew Wrigley, whose office received a US Department of Justice award for cracking the case.
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