U.S. and Dutch authorities simultaneously took action Wednesday against an individual and two companies accused of defrauding thousands of older adults in the United States of more than $18 million a year through direct mail solicitations, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
The Justice Department is seeking a temporary restraining order as well as preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent the defendants — Trends Service in Kommunikatie B.V. and Kommunikatie Service Buitenland B.V., both located in Utrecht, Netherlands, and both owned and operated by Erik Dekker of Langbroek, Netherlands — from continuing operations.
According to the civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, U.S. residents were sent mass mailings that falsely claimed that they had won, or soon would win, cash or prizes or otherwise would come into a large fortune. The mailings, form letters disguised as personalized communication, according to the Justice Department, were sent from locations around the world.
Recipients of the solicitations were instructed to pay a processing fee to receive lottery winnings or other prizes or to purchase goods or services to “guarantee” future lottery wins. Requested payments typically ranged from $15 to $55. Included with the mailings were pre-addressed envelopes, addressed to post office boxes in the Netherlands, that recipients could use to send their completed forms and payments. The companies allegedly entered personal information from the victims into a database once they received the envelopes.
Dutch authorities executed search warrants at the two businesses and at Dekker’s home, and they also took control of more than 50 Dutch post office boxes to which authorities allege U.S. residents have sent funds since at least 2012. Authorities from the Netherlands also are investigating additional businesses and post office boxes suspected of being involved in schemes affecting residents of several other countries.
Watch video of the searches by the Dutch Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Division here: