The lottery and romance scams defrauded more than 200 victims across the U.S. of more than $5 million, with many of the victims elderly and vulnerable, some even losing their life savings, according to federal prosecutors.
A Connecticut victim lost more than $1 million and now a Bridgeport man is going to prison for his participation in the lottery and romance scams, according to federal prosecutors.
Stanley Pierre 35, of Bridgeport, was sentenced to 30 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, according to federal prosecutors.
Authorities said the scams worked like this:
“Scammers notify victims by telephone, through online communications, or by mail, that they have won the lottery. The victims are then told that in order to collect the prize they must pay fees for things like taxes, shipping and processing.
Often, when a victim sends a small amount of money, a scammer will ask for larger sums of money with a promise of more winnings. The victims never receive winnings.
In a romance scam, scammers take advantage of people looking for companionship by pretending to be prospective companions. Scammers typically create fake online profiles on dating websites that include false personal details such as the death of a spouse, or military service, to lure victims to trust them.
Once they have gained the trust of victims, scammers will ask victims for money, falsely claiming to need money for medical or business emergencies, for travel to see the victim, or other purposes.”
Prosecutors said Farouq Fasasi, Rodney Thomas, Jr. and others “used lottery scams, romance scams and other fraudulent means to induce elderly victims to provide them with money, gifts and personal details” and victims sent “cash, money orders or checks through the mail to various addresses in Connecticut, and also wired or deposited money into bank accounts in Connecticut controlled by conspiracy members and their associates.”
Pierre used “his personal bank accounts and also established business bank accounts to launder money obtained from fraud victims.”
Pierre also recruited others to lauder proceeds from the scheme, according to federal prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering in January.
Fasasi, Thomas and Ralph Pierre were found guilty of multiple charges stemming from this scheme on Feb. 15, 2022. Ralph Pierre was sentenced to 3 years in prison on June 28; Fasasi and Thomas await sentencing.
The Justice Department has established a National Elder Fraud Hotline to provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. he Hotline’s toll free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311). For more information, visit. https://ovc.ojp.gov/program/stop-elder-fraud/providing-help-restoring-hope.