(Reuters) - A Montreal man has been criminally charged in New York for his role in a multimillion dollar telemarketing fraud where elderly victims were falsely told they had won Canadian lotteries and sweepstakes, U.S. prosecutors said.
Martin Hogan, 52, pleaded not guilty on Monday to an 11-count indictment including wire fraud, wire and mail fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pedersen in Rochester, New York.
Hogan was extradited from Jamaica to face the charges, and will remain in custody pending a March 1 detention hearing.
Prosecutors said Hogan phoned victims from Canada, and said they would first have to pay taxes, customs and other fees to collect their winnings.
Thirty-seven victims age 55 and over transferred about $2 million of funds, including a Las Vegas woman who took out a reverse mortgage on her home to fund payments for the release of $2.5 million she thought she had won, court papers show.
Once funds were wired or mailed, some co-conspirators kept small portions, while others drove the remainder over the border to Hogan, prosecutors said.
Conspirators would sometimes communicate in code, with Hogan known as "Mtl" and the cross-border smuggling referred to as "Canada," the papers show. The alleged scheme ran from September 2015 to March 2020.
"Criminals who defraud and threaten U.S. citizens by phone will not escape justice by placing their calls from outside our country," U.S. Attorney James Kennedy said in a statement.
James Egan, a lawyer for Hogan, said in an email: "At this stage, these are simply allegations of which my client is presumed innocent by law."
Four of Hogan's alleged accomplices entered guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing, while a fifth pleaded guilty and received probation.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
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