Lottery scam artist sentenced to nine years in prison

A 43-year-old Canadian resident who ran a bogus lottery scheme targeting elderly Americans was sentenced today in Los Angeles to nine years behind bars and ordered to pay $510,000 in restitution.

Henry Chukwuma Anekwu, of Vancouver, was convicted in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in April of 16 counts of fraud, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

Anekwu was the owner of Platinum Award Inc. and Capital Award Inc., both fraudulent lottery companies he operated in Vancouver from about 1998 through 2003.

Anekwu directed telemarketers to contact potential victims in the United States to inform them they had won a lottery. Victims were advised that, in order to collect the winnings, they must pay taxes or fees that were described as transaction, conversion, registration or processing fees, Eimiller said.

Victims were instructed to deposit cashier's checks or personal checks in amounts ranging from about $475 to $60,000 into commercial mailboxes located in Vancouver. Many were contacted repeatedly and instructed to send additional monies in order to obtain their winnings, according to Eimiller.

In some cases, victims were talked into selling assets, charging money on credit cards, borrowing from friends and family and even mortgaging their homes to send money to the fraudulent companies. Investigators and prosecutors estimated the total loss to victims exceeded $600,000.

Anekwu was arrested in Canada in 2005 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and was out on bail for about four years until his extradition to Los Angeles last December, Eimiller said.

KPCC wire services contributed to this report.