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UNITED STATES POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE


February 23, 2005

U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Canadian Officials
Announce Cross-Border Fraud Task Force


Halifax, Canada -- Chief Postal Inspector Lee R. Heath of the United States Postal Inspection Service joined Canadian law enforcement officials today to announce a major new task force aimed at protecting American and Canadian citizens from the serious and growing problem of deceptive, cross-border telemarketing practices.

The Atlantic Partnership task force bolsters U.S. and Canadian resources in halting fraud schemes that traverse borders to target victims in both countries. The Competition Bureau of Canada, which enforces fair competition, played a key role in creating the task force.

"We are grateful for the expertise and resources each agency brings to this important new initiative," Heath said. "The Postal Inspection Service recognizes that cooperative information-sharing improves its effectiveness in identifying, combating, and preventing fraudulent and deceptive cross-border marketing. Similar efforts have benefited consumers and businesses both in the United States and Canada."

The Postal Inspection Service has partnered with Canadian law enforcement groups on other successful cross-border fraud initiatives: Project Colt in Montreal, the Toronto Strategic Partnership, the Alberta Partnership Against Cross-Border Fraud in Alberta, and Project Emptor in Vancouver, British Columbia.

A sharp increase in mail fraud complaints from U.S. victims responding to Canadian promotions prompted renewed attention from authorities in both countries. Victims of fraud are often older citizens, who may be especially vulnerable due to fixed or limited incomes. Many have lost their life savings to unscrupulous telemarketers operating from Canada.

"The Postal Inspection Service is particularly interested in fraudsters who use the U.S. Mail to further their schemes," Heath said. "Since 1998, Project Colt, the Toronto Strategic Partnership, and Project Emptor have shut down boiler rooms in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Along with numerous arrests of criminal operators in the United States and Canada, those convicted of fraud have been ordered to pay millions of dollars in restitution to victims in each country."

For more than 100 years, U.S. Postal Inspectors have protected American consumers by ensuring the integrity of the U.S. Mail. Since the 1800s, Postal Inspectors have used the mail fraud statute to halt crimes such as medical quackery and phony gold mines as well as corporate, Internet, and telemarketing fraud conducted via the mail. Fraudulent telemarketers and other scammers frequently rely on the mail to further their schemes.

Postal Inspection Service mail fraud investigations resulted in 1,446 arrests and 1,245 convictions in 2004, as well as $1.1 billion in court-ordered restitution, $143 million in voluntary restitution, and about $20 million in fines.



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