ST. LOUIS -- The operators of a sweepstakes scam that affected senior citizens and others will forfeit $30 million in cash and assets under a record settlement announced Thursday by the Missouri Attorney General's Office and the Federal Trade Commission.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement that the settlement sends "a clear message" that those who commit fraud in Missouri won't "go unpunished."
Kevin Brandes, William Graham and Charles Floyd Anderson sent deceptive mailers to consumers worldwide starting in 2013, the agencies said. The trio operated out of Kansas City, Missouri, along with corporations under their control.
The mailers falsely stated the recipients won large cash prizes but had to pay fees of up to $140 to get them, according to the agencies. Other mailers invited recipients to play "games of skill," but failed to disclose the fees to play or the fact that the final round of the game involved a complex mathematical puzzle that was virtually impossible to solve.
"These defendants tricked millions of people — many of them older adults — into paying money to collect prizes that never materialized," said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The defendants must turn over more than $21 million in cash along with property that will be liquidated to help pay back the victims. The property includes two luxury homes, a yacht and a Bentley automobile.
Originally filed in February 2018, the attorney general's office said many victims in this case paid several times before realizing they had been scammed.
The agencies said the settlement is a record for a sweepstakes scam for both the attorney general and FTC.