LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A scheme to fraudulently obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars by telling people they had won sweepstakes has been traced to Louisville and led to the arrest of the man involved.
Kingsley I. Ekpendu, 42, of Louisville, is charged with three counts of theft by deception under $10,000 and 201 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument.
Louisville Metro police say from Sept. 2 to Oct. 4, Ekpendu mailed letters to at least three people telling them they had won the Publishers Clearing House Super Cash Giveaway. Each letter said the prize winner needed to contact a claims manager and give the security code provided in order to get their winnings.
Sgt. Eric Black said the scam targeted elderly, unsuspecting victims.
"When you call that claims manager, 'Congratulations, you've won'," Black said. "You've just hooked your victim."
The letters also contained a check in an amount between $6,000 and $8,000. The winners were instructed to deposit the check, which was counterfeit, into their personal bank account and immediately send a specific amount - between $5,200 and $7,000 - to a Louisville address in the Kosmosdale area using an overnight package service.
Police said the massive scam likely went on for months, if not years, with countless victims.
"A lot of victims sometimes are afraid to come forward because they're ashamed of what they've fallen prey to," Kristi Parkerson, a U.S. Postal Inspector on the case, said. "There's no lottery, sweepstakes, anything that's going to ask you for the money in advance."
Investigators said Ekpendu accepted delivery for two of the packages. The third was intercepted by police thanks to a tip from the local shipping company.
"The address that the parcels were coming to, it didn't look like anyone was actually living there, residing there," Black said. "The number of parcels, the size of the parcels alerted them and quite frankly if it was not for them, this case would not be here. We would not have been able to capture this guy."
When a search warrant was served at Ekpendu's home in Pleasure Ridge Park, detectives found 198 stamped letters that were addressed to people across the U.S., each telling the recipient they had won the Publishers Clearing House or other sweepstakes. Also found in the letters were counterfeit checks totaling $1.485 million.
Ekpendu admitted to detectives that he was involved in mailing the letter to the victims, but he said he was paid for his role, according to his arrest report. The report also states that Ekpendu and his girlfriend had plans to leave the U.S.