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Merrick man pleads guilty to $30 million elder fraud scheme

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Shaun Sullivan, of Merrick, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud on Tuesday.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, Sullivan sent fraudulent prize-promotion mailings that led to recipients — many of whom were elderly and vulnerable — to believe that they would receive large cash prizes in exchange for a modest fee. None of the victims received substantial cash prizes after paying the fees — which totaled to more than $30 million.

“Sullivan preyed on consumers, many of them vulnerable and elderly, by sending fraudulent mailings designed to trick them into believing they had won a cash prize; he then lined his own pockets with the fees he extracted from the victims,” stated United States Attorney Richard Donoghue. “Protecting the community from mass mailing fraud schemes remains a priority of this Office and the Department of Justice.”

Sullivan and others sent the mailings to thousands of victims throughout the United States between December 2010 and July 2016. The mailings appeared to be inconspicuous, personally addressed to individuals whose names were on consumer lists obtained by Sullivan and his co-conspirators.

He and co-defendant Tully Lovisa rented and maintained private mailboxes in the Eastern District of New York to receive return mailings sent by the victims. They created various shell companies to accept the fees, and hid their involvement in the business by using straw owners and aliases.

Lovisa pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in October 2018, and is awaiting sentencing.

“The Department of Justice will bring to justice those who exploit elderly consumers in violation of federal law,” said Assistant Attorney General Joseph Hunt. “We are actively working with our law enforcement partners at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to stop and punish schemes that harm consumers.”

“Today’s plea is an example of the coordinated efforts of law enforcement to protect the vulnerable and older Americans, who were specifically targeted to receive bogus solicitations to lure the unsuspecting ‘prize winner’ to send money that was subsequently used for Mr. Sullivan and his co-conspirators own enrichment,” said United States Postal Inspection Service Inspector-in-Charge Philip Bartlett.

When sentenced, Sullivan faces up to 20 years in prison, $550,000 in forfeiture, and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss from the offense.