Watertown father and son sentenced to prison for decade-long lottery and tax fraud scheme


More than 40 Massachusetts lottery agent licenses to be revoked or suspended

Date: May 22, 2023

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

A father and son were sentenced today in federal court in Boston for orchestrating an elaborate "ten-percenting" scheme involving dozens of convenience stores across Massachusetts. The defendants unlawfully claimed more than 14,000 winning lottery tickets, laundered over $20 million in proceeds, and then lied on their tax returns. The result was more than $6 million in federal tax loss. As a direct result of this case, the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission is in the process of revoking or suspending the licenses of more than 40 of its lottery agents.

Ali Jaafar and Yousef Jaafar, both of Watertown, were sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to five years and 50 months in prison, respectively, in addition to orders of restitution in the amount of $6,082,578 and forfeiture of their profits from the scheme. In December 2022, Ali and Yousef Jaafar were convicted by a federal jury of one count of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count each of filing a false tax return.

Mohamed Jaafar, another of Ali Jaafar's sons who was also involved in the scheme, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service on Nov. 4, 2022 and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 25, 2023.

In 2019 alone, Ali Jaafar was the top individual lottery ticket casher for Massachusetts. Mohamed Jaafar was the third highest individual ticket casher and Yousef Jaafar was the fourth highest individual ticket casher. The scheme also resulted in federal tax losses of over $6 million, more than $1.2 million of which went directly to the defendants in the form of fraudulent tax refunds.

"This case is, at its core, an elaborate tax fraud. Over the course of a decade, this father-and-son team defrauded the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission and the IRS to pocket millions of hard-earned taxpayers' dollars. These defendants worked together to recruit a wide network of co-conspirators and spread their lottery scam across Massachusetts, avoiding detection by repeatedly lying to government officials. In total, the Jaafars laundered more than $20 million in proceeds, and their scheme resulted in more than $6 million in tax loss. These defendants pocketed $1.2 million from fraudulent taxpayer refunds," said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. "I commend the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission and the IRS for their exceptional collaboration and partnership. As a direct result of this case, the Commission is in the process of revoking or suspending the licenses of more than 40 of its lottery agents. This case should serve as a warning to those who think they can cheat the system for their own financial gain: you will be identified, prosecuted and held accountable."

"Instead of using business savvy and skill to build a legitimate multi-generational family business, the Jaafars carried out a complex decade-long tax and lottery scam, building a vast network of coconspirators to further their illegal activities. Tax violations have been erroneously referred to as victimless crimes, but it's the honest law-abiding citizen who is harmed when someone tries to manipulate our nation's tax system," said Joleen Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations in Boston.

"This case is an example of the extensive efforts the Lottery will take in partnering with law enforcement to assist in the prevention of illegal activities. This decision is the culmination of years of hard work to maintain the integrity of the Lottery," said Deborah B. Goldberg, Massachusetts State Treasurer & Receiver General, and Chair of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission.

"The outcome of this case sends a clear message that anyone complicit in the avoidance of financial obligations through fraudulent Lottery prize claims faces real and severe consequences. We commend the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Massachusetts State Police and the IRS for their efforts in assisting us in confronting these illegal activities and securing the public's trust in the Lottery," said Mark William Bracken, Interim Executive Director, Massachusetts State Lottery.

Between 2011 and 2020, the defendants purchased winning lottery tickets from individuals across Massachusetts who wanted to sell their winning tickets for a cash discount instead of claiming their prizes from the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission. This allowed the real winners to avoid identification by the Commission, which is legally required to identify lottery winners and withhold any outstanding taxes, back taxes and child support payments before paying out prizes. The defendants recruited and paid the owners of dozens of convenience stores to facilitate the transactions. After purchasing tickets from the lottery winners at a discount, using the convenience stores as go-betweens, the defendants lied to the Commission, claiming the full amount of the prize money as their own. The defendants then further profited by reporting the winnings on their income tax returns and claiming equivalent fake gambling losses as an offset, thereby avoiding federal income taxes and receiving fraudulent tax refunds.

Acting U.S. Attorney Levy; IRS SAC Simpson; Treasurer & Receiver General Goldberg; and Interim Executive Director Bracken made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher J. Markham and Kristen A. Kearney of Levy's Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.