On June 12, 2018, Thomas Ressler, 66, of Whitehall, Montana, was sentenced by the U.S. District Court in Helena to serve 36 months in prison for designing dozens of fraudulent solicitations used in an international mail-fraud scheme. On February 22, 2018, Ressler pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
“This defendant used his artistic abilities to advance a scheme that defrauded thousands of elderly victims,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable those who knowingly facilitate fraud against America’s seniors.”
Ressler created more than 200 fraudulent sweepstakes and prize-notification letters that falsely informed recipients they could claim cash or other valuable prizes by submitting a processing or delivery fee. The letters appeared to come from official-sounding but fictitious entities with names like Cash Payout Disbursement Advisors, Progressive Winners Guarantors, and Vehicle Transport Company. Many of the letters included the name and signature of a purported officer or representative of the fictitious entity.
Ressler’s co-conspirators, Ryan Young and Ercan Barka, used the solicitations Ressler created to perpetrate their large-scale scheme, sending Ressler’s designed solicitations to victims throughout the United States and numerous foreign countries. Although the solicitations appeared personally directed to each recipient, Barka and Young actually sent them to thousands of recipients identified on mailing lists bought from list brokers and corporate entities. No victim who submitted a fee in response to a solicitation ever received the large cash prize or other valuable items touted in the solicitations. At most, some victims received a report listing unrelated sweepstakes or a worthless piece of jewelry.
Ercan Barka and Ryan Young previously pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. They are awaiting sentencing.
The United States Postal Inspection Service investigated this case. Trial Attorney John W. Burke of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch is prosecuting it.