LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a Hot Springs woman who facilitated a multi-million dollar international sweepstakes scheme. The complaint alleges that Jean Butler, 73, is funneling fraudulently obtained funds through numerous bank accounts to the operators of the scheme in Jamaica.
“Jean Butler was and has always been an active, willing participant in this fraudulent money mule scheme,” said Rutledge. “Money mules like Butler who help scammers take advantage of Arkansans and people across the country must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
In these types of schemes and in this particular case, the operators, who are often in foreign countries, contact potential victims and say they have won a jackpot or lottery but must first pay taxes or fees before receiving the prize. The victims are instructed to send this payment to a person in the U.S., commonly referred to as a “money mule,” like Butler. The money mule opens bank accounts and deposits money received from these victims. The operators then withdraw those funds for themselves. In Butler’s case, investigators estimate she opened numerous bank accounts and facilitated the transfer of about $6 million to the operators of the scheme in Jamaica. The victims, usually seniors or other vulnerable persons, never received the promised prize and discover all too late that the money they sent to the money mule is gone.
Butler is accused of acting as a money mule since 2017 in a scheme purporting to be the “Mega Millions” lottery. After opening bank accounts, Butler would inform the bank that she would be traveling out of the country, that way avoiding raising suspicions about the foreign transactions. Banks would eventually suspect fraudulent activity and close the accounts. Butler would then open an account in another bank and continue the activity.
Investigators determined that Butler was aware of her actions and complicit in her involvement in the scheme. The various victims of this scheme are reportedly from throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, alleges that Butler violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA) and seeks restitution for affected consumers, civil penalties and an injunction prohibiting Butler from further participating in this or any other scheme. The lawsuit also requires her to cooperate with any additional law enforcement investigations into the scheme. Any person who violates the ADTPA may be subject to civil penalties up to $10,000 per violation. The Attorney General’s Office coordinated this effort with the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The recruitment of money mules is on the rise, often deceptively advertised as “work from home jobs” or “online jobs”, and appear to be attractive options for the elderly or college students to make money easily. It is common for those who participate in money mule activity to not even be aware they are facilitating an illegal operation. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be a victim of money mule activity, or to file a consumer-related claim with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, call (800) 482-8982, email email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov.