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3 Vegas-area men to appeal lengthy US prison terms in $10M prize-notification fraud case

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Attorneys say three Nevada men intend to appeal lengthy federal prison terms they received after being found guilty of conducting a prize-notification scheme that prosecutors say bilked elderly and vulnerable victims out of more than $10 million over the course of eight years.

Mario Castro, 55, of Las Vegas was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court to 20 years in prison, Miguel Castro, 58, of Las Vegas, was sentenced to more than 19 years, and Jose Luis Mendez, 49, of Henderson, was sentenced to 14 years, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Jason Frierson said.

A jury found the three men guilty in April of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and multiple counts of mail fraud, Frierson said in a Monday statement about the case.

Attorneys Willliam Brown for Mendez, Joshua Tomsheck for Mario Castro and Lucas Gaffney for Miguel Castro said Monday that their clients maintain their innocence and will appeal their convictions and sentences.

Several other Las Vegas-area residents previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in the case, Frierson's statement said.

Mailings appeared to be sent by corporate organizations with names including Imperial Award Services, Assets Unlimited, Pacific Disbursement Reporting, Special Money Managers, Price Awards and Money Securities, according to the indictment.

The defendants were indicted in November 2019. Court documents and trial evidence showed that from 2010 to February 2018, the three men and several other co-conspirators printed and mailed millions of fraudulent prize notices inviting victims to pay a fee of about $25 to claim a large cash prize, the U.S. Attorney's Office statement said.

Jurors were told that people who paid did not receive anything of value and were often bombarded with additional fraudulent prize notices. After multiple cease-and-desist orders, U.S. Postal Service inspectors executed search warrants, and the Justice Department obtained a court order shutting down the operation.