A Jamaican man who scammed an elderly widow out of nearly $120,967 by claiming she won $5 million in a lottery is facing 15 months in prison — because the victim’s family and law enforcement pulled a scam on him.
Kemal Barnes pleaded guilty in US District Court to one count of mail fraud, leading to a 15- month sentence from US District Court Judge Patti B. Saris for persuading a 79-year-old Texas woman to send money to the Malden home he shared with his wife, according to court records.
Court records stated that Barnes started draining money using the aliases of “Mary Jones” and “Kenneth Wilson” from the Texas woman in September 2015 when he was living in his native Jamaica. The victim sent the money to the Cleveland Street address in Malden where Barnes then lived, or to an address in Orange, Mass., that Barnes was familiar with, the records show.
When her son learned of the payments in 2015, the victim’s family contacted law enforcement, triggering an investigation by the US Postal Service. The victim told authorities that during her conversations with “Mary Jones” she had disclosed she was trying to obtain a reverse mortgage worth as much as $157,000.
At that point, the victim’s son and law enforcement launched a scam of their own.
The victim told “Mary Jones” that if she got the reverse mortgage, she would send $60,000 to Massachusetts so she could collect her lottery money. But, the woman told “Mary Jones” she needed money for closing costs, and “Jones” sent her $2,400 in cash, records show.
Having seen that Barnes had taken their bait, law enforcement then set the hook.
A fake check worth $60,000 was put in a Priority Express envelope and sent to “Mary Jones’s’’ address in Malden, arriving around 9:54 a.m. on Dec. 21, 2015. The letter “was signed for by a male occupant . . . later identified as Kemal Barnes,’’ US Postal Inspector Elijah Herbert wrote.
Postal inspectors, who had obtained a search warrant in anticipation of Barnes falling for their scam, discovered a cellphone that rang when they used the telephone number provided by the victim and other documents linking Barnes to the Texas woman, records show.
“The U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail Express envelope, which had been delivered minutes before, was located on a couch in the living room of the residence,” Herbert wrote. “The fictitious check for $60,000 was found in the opened inner envelope.”
Barnes was arrested.
When he arrived in Massachusetts in the fall of 2015, Barnes was a lawful permanent resident; his wife is a naturalized citizen, records show. When he completes his prison term, he will be deported, according to court records.
In court papers, Federal Public Defender Timothy G. Watkins pleaded for a three-month sentence for Barnes, who surrendered to federal authorities in April.
“For Kemal Barnes the American dream of a better life has turned to ashes as the consequence of his decision to assist others in a scheme to defraud,’’ Watkins wrote. “Although he helped to make it work, he did not operate the scheme and he did not profit or benefit from it [in] any way.”