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Law

A Whitehall man was sentenced Tuesday to serve 36 months in prison for designing an international mail-fraud scheme that targeted elderly victims with fraudulent prize-notification and sweepstakes letters.

Thomas Ressler, 66, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Helena. He pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

“This defendant used his artistic abilities to advance a scheme that defrauded thousands of elderly victims,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler said in a press release.

Ressler created more than 200 fraudulent prize-notification letters that falsely informed recipients they could claim their prize by submitting a processing or delivery fee. The letters appeared to come from official-sounding but fake entities such as Cash Payout Disbursement Advisors, Progressive Winners Guarantors and Vehicle Transport Company. Some letters included a name and signature of an officer or representative of the fictitious entity.

Ressler’s co-conspirators, Ryan Young and Ercan Barka, sent Ressler’s solicitations to victims throughout the United States and numerous foreign countries. The mail-outs appeared personally directed to each recipient, but Barka and Young send them to thousands of recipients identified on mailing lists bough from list brokers and corporate entities.

None of the victims that submitted a fee after receiving these solicitations received an extravagant prize, at most, some victims received a worthless piece of jewelry.

“The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable those who knowingly facilitate fraud against America’s seniors,” said Readler in a press release.

Barka and Young previously pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. They are awaiting sentencing.

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