Fitzgerald man handed federal court sentence, two found illegally in southwest Georgia

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ATHENS – An Athens resident was sentenced to federal prison and ordered to pay restitution and a fine for illegally operating an unlicensed money transmitting business targeting elderly victims.

Colin Moore, 24, of Athens, was sentenced to serve 18 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, $65,450 in restitution and a $95,000 fine by U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal on Thursday after Moore previously pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Consumers must remain vigilant when it comes to solicitations for money in exchange for the illusion of a grand prize,” acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary said. “Our office will protect the consumer and prosecute those who concoct schemes that illegally prey on the false hope of vulnerable people.”

“Criminals like Moore help fraudsters systematically target the elderly and vulnerable, offering various services and opportunities for prizes,” IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey said. “We all have a shared responsibility to protect and safeguard the elderly and vulnerable among us from individuals like Moore and his co-conspirators. The Special Agents of IRS-CI are proud of the work we have done in this investigation and will continue our efforts toward maintaining the integrity of the country’s financial markets, while also protecting our elderly.”

According to court documents, Moore was operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, having never registered such a business with either the state of Georgia or the U.S. Government. Moore was under investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for multiple offenses related to a fraudulent sweepstakes scheme. The investigation revealed that unidentified co-conspirators contacted victims and directed the victims to send money to Moore. Moore would purchase money orders with the victims’ money, buy bitcoin and sell bitcoin to a third party, thereby operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.

Moore received approximately $65,450 from seven elderly victims in seven different states. The total amount that unidentified co-conspirators received from the scheme was $545,050. The victims did not have knowledge of bitcoin and did not send money to Moore or another third party for any bitcoin transaction. The IRS discovered Moore used 14 different accounts with six different financial institutions to receive large sums of cash and money orders from victims that he used to purchase virtual currency.

Persons who are 60 years old or older who have been victims of financial fraud are informed that help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps.

Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis.

Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud, and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday. English, Spanish and other languages are available.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the IRS. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shanelle Booker prosecuted the case for the government.

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