The Federal Trade Commission said Monday it won a judgment in the amount of approximately $19.8 million from several Canadian telemarketers accused of bilking consumers in a foreign lottery ticket scam.
The original complaint, filed in December 1998, charged that the telemarketers operating out of a boiler room in Toronto pressured U.S. consumers, many of them senior citizens, into investing from $29 to thousands of dollars in Canadian lotteries. Buying and selling foreign lottery tickets in the United States is illegal under federal law.
According to the FTC complaint, the telemarketers told consumers they were “practically guaranteed to win” prizes in the lotteries and failed to say that selling the tickets was illegal. Little of the money spent by consumers actually went toward the purchase of tickets, the FTC said.
In addition to the money, judge James B. Zagel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Illinois in Chicago issued an order permanently forbidding the defendants in the FTC's suit from practicing telemarketing in the United States. The FTC is pursuing legal action in Canada to recover money. However, the amount of money that will actually be available for consumers who lost money in the scam is unclear, the FTC said.
The defendants included Windermere Big Win International Inc., Marathon Award Center Inc., Sunshine Fortuity Inc. as well as several individuals.