PROVIDENCE — A Pawtucket man who admitted to participating in a Jamaica-based telemarketing scam that primarily targeted and victimized elderly people was sentenced on Thursday to 30 months in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Shawn Whitfield, 49, of Pawtucket admitted to receiving more than $109,000 in upfront payments from victims of the scam who were led to believe they had won cash or prizes in a lottery or sweepstakes. Some victims were told they had won as much as $82 million while others were told they were in line to receive $5,000 a week for life. Mercedes-Benz vehicles were among the prizes some of the victims were told they had won, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

In each instance, victims were told their winnings would not be released to them without upfront payment of taxes or fees. Individuals sent payments to Whitfield ranging between $212 and $50,000 with some reporting sending multiple payments after being instructed to do so by the scammers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The majority of funds collected by Whitfield were transferred electronically to co-conspirators and others, most often to individuals in Jamaica.

“This defendant’s sentence provides him the opportunity to reflect on the financial and emotional turmoil he caused dozens of people, most of them elderly, when he and his cohorts stole their money,” United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman said in a statement issued on Thursday. “My office, like Department of Justice offices across the country, is committed to combating all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions like in this case, training and resources, victim services, and public awareness. Our prosecutors and advocates make themselves available to the community to discuss the warning signs of scams and steps to take to help ensure that they do not become a scammer’s next victim.”

Whitfield was arrested at his place of employment in Norwood, Mass. on Feb. 20, 2018 by United States Postal Inspection Service agents.

Whitfield pleaded guilty on June 3 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud. At sentencing, U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith sentenced Whitfield to 30 months in federal prison to be followed by three years supervised release. The court also ordered restitution be paid to the victims in an amount to be determined at a later date.

Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette

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