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Two Buford women sentenced in million-dollar sweepstakes scam targeting elderly

Two women from Buford were sentenced last week after pleading guilty to their part in a sweepstakes scam that took more than $3.5 million from elderly victims, according to court documents.

Silvia Sanchez Valverde, 47, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and was sentenced to five years in prison. Priscilla Sibaja, 21, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and received a three-year prison sentence.

Two co-defendants — Rodolfo Orozco Aguilar, 44, of Costa Rica, and Daniel Sibaja, 28, of Buford — pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and were sentenced earlier this month to four years in prison.

Attorneys for Priscilla Sibaja and Valverde did not answer a call for comment Wednesday, Nov. 28, from The Times.

A fifth codefendant, Elpelice Figueroa Rosales, 62, of Buford, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, but sentencing has not yet taken place.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, dozens of victims were called between February 2016 and September 2017 and told they had won a sweepstakes or lottery.

“The victims were told that they could receive their sweepstakes winnings after they paid various expenses, such as taxes and fees. The victims were directed to pay the expenses to various companies controlled by the defendants, such as J.G. Services, RF Financial Services, and Master Builders. The victims would then mail payments via personal and cashier’s checks to addresses that were linked to mailboxes rented by the defendants,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote in a previous news release.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said more than $3.5 million was deposited into bank accounts before transferring “the majority of the funds to Costa Rican bank accounts.”

“These defendants stole the life savings of dozens of elderly victims and received more than $3.5 million,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak in a news release. “These schemes unfortunately are all too common and citizens should be wary of contests that require upfront payments to receive a prize.”

According to court documents, the victims were instructed to send checks “via overnight delivery to mailboxes located in Buford and Dacula.”

Following the prison sentence, both Priscilla Sibaja and Valverde will have three years of supervised release.

A restitution hearing has been set for Jan. 28.

The forfeiture provision upon conviction would apply to “all property constituting or derived from proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of said violations,” which would include money in various bank accounts, smartphones and laptop computers.

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