Good afternoon. I am Loren, a licensed attorney, and I look forward to answering your question. I am sorry to hear of your dilemma. I realize how frustrating this is for you and I hope to provide you information which is accurate and useful, even though it may not be the news you were hoping to get.
As you know, something which is too good to be true is, generally, not. Also, I am sure you suspect this is one of those times. Unfortunately, I am absolutely sure that there is no prize waiting for you from these people.
This is positively a scam. It is known as an "Advance Fee Scam".Just remember:1. You can not win a sweepstakes or lottery you did not enter.2. No legitimate sweepstakes asks winners to pay upfront to release the winnings.3. If they were genuinely holding money belonging to you should be able to tell them to just deduct the taxes, insurance, courier fee (all red flags, by the way) and send you a net check.
Do not send any more money or otherwise respond. They are stealing from you.
Here is an online warning from the FTC:
I realize this is probably not the answer you were hoping to receive. Also, please remember that this is not a moral judgement on my part. As a professional, however, I am sometimes placed in the position of having to deliver news which is not favorable to a customer's legal position, but accurately reflects their position under the law. I hate it, but it happens and I only ask that you not penalize me with a bad or poor rating for having to deliver less than favorable news.
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