‘Lottery & Romance Scam’ Gets New Haven Man 3-Year Prison Bid: Feds | #datingscams | #lovescams

NEW HAVEN, CT — A 32-year-old New Haven man will serve three years in a federal lockup for his role in defrauding hundreds of mostly elderly people across the country out of millions in a “lottery and fraud scheme,” federal prosecutors said.

Ralph Pierre was sentenced in a Bridgeport U.S. District courtroom Tuesday.

Vanessa Roberts Avery, US Attorney for Connecticut, the evidence presented at trial showed that “in a lottery scam, scammers notify victims by telephone, through online communications, or by mail, that they have won the lottery.” And that Pierre was one of three who conspired together in the scheme.

In the scam, after being told they won, the victims are then told that in order to collect the prize they must pay fees for things like taxes, shipping and processing, per prosecutors. “Often, once a victim sends a small amount of money, a scammer will ask for larger sums of money with a promise of more winnings, but the victims never receive winnings,” it’s explained in a Justice Department news release.

Federal prosecutors explained who a “romance scam” works: “Scammers take advantage of people looking for companionship by pretending to be prospective companions,” the feds explained. “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.”

According to the US Attorney, between around August 2015 and March 2020, 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. 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, federal prosecutors said.

Fasasi, Thomas, Pierre, and other co-conspirators lived together for a time at a residence on Sherman Avenue in New Haven, where many packages containing cash, checks and money orders from victims were delivered, per the Justice Department. “To help launder the money obtained from fraud victims, Pierre formed a fake charity, called Global Protection Foundation,’ and opened four bank accounts in the fake charity’s name, the news release from Avery reads. Between July and November 2018, more than $200,000 was deposited into and withdrawn from these bank accounts and Pierre’s personal bank accounts, federal prosecutors said.

The investigation revealed that these scams defrauded more than 200 victims across the U.S. of more than $5 million, federal prosecutors said. “Many of the victims were elderly and vulnerable, and some victims lost their life savings,” the US Attorney said, adding that one Connecticut victim lost more than $1 million.

On February 15, 2022, Fasasi, Thomas and Pierre were found guilty of multiple charges stemming from this scheme. Specifically, Pierre was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering. Three other individuals have been charged and convicted of offenses stemming from their participation in this scheme.

Pierre, who is released on a $100,000 bond, is required to report to prison on August 31.

The Justice Department has established a National Elder Fraud Hotline to provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. The Hotline is staffed by experienced case managers who can provide personalized support to callers. Case managers assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed. When applicable, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for Internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller. The Hotline’s toll free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311). For more information, please visit. https://ovc.ojp.gov/program/stop-elder-fraud/providing-help-restoring-hope.

This matter is being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Army-CID, and New Haven Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather L. Cherry and Stephanie T. Levick

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