Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Aging Committee, applauded the announcement by the Department of Justice that three criminals were sentenced for their involvement in an $11 million telemarketing scheme that defrauded seniors.
“As the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, one of my top priorities is protecting our seniors against abuse, including fraud and financial exploitation,” said Senator Collins. “Over the course of the more than two dozen hearings I have held to expose and examine scams, it is clear that a coordinated approach is necessary to put a stop to them. I commend the DOJ for working with its partners across multiple federal agencies to pursue these criminals. These convictions put other fraudsters on notice that they will be caught and they will be brought to justice.”
Donald Dodt, 76, originally of Cleveland, Ohio, Thomas Sniffen, 58, originally of Peekskill, New York, and Michael Saxon, 50, originally of Ontario, Canada, were sentenced to 90 months, 114 months and 75 months in prison, respectively. They were also ordered to pay restitution.
Dodt, Sniffen, and Saxon conspired together to commit the fraud and worked in a call center in Costa Rica. While falsely posing as federal judges, representatives of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and other federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, they contacted victims in the United States — primarily senior citizens — to tell them that that they had supposedly won a substantial “sweepstakes” prize.
After convincing victims that they stood to receive a significant financial reward, the members of the conspiracy told victims that they needed to make a series of up-front cash payments before collecting, purportedly for items like insurance fees, taxes, and import fees. The co-conspirators used a variety of means to conceal their identity, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that made it appear as if they were calling from Washington, D.C., and other places in the United States. This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS-CI and the FBI with assistance from the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
This week, Senator Collins chaired the 25th hearing the Aging Committee has held in the past seven years to examine scams affecting older Americans.
Senator Collins has also introduced a bill to crack down on the deceptive caller-ID “spoofing” tactic many scammers use. In 2018, the Senior $afe Act, a bipartisan bill Senator Collins authored with then-Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), was signed into law. This new law provides support to regulators, financial institutions, and legal organizations to educate their employees about how to identify, prevent, and report financial exploitation.
Each year, Senator Collins releases a Fraud Book, which details the top 10 most common scams reported to the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) over the previous year. The new edition covering the year 2019 will be unveiled at Wednesday’s Aging Committee hearing.