A New Haven man is sentenced to three years in prison after allegedly scamming hundreds of people into giving him upwards of $5 million.
The Department of Justice said 32-year-old Ralph Pierre faces prison time for participating in lottery and romance scams that swindled primarily elderly victims across the U.S.
Officials said that in a lottery scam, scammers tell people by phone, 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. A scammer will often times ask for more money with a promise of more winnings, but the person never receives those winnings.
In a romance scam, scammers take advantage of people looking for companionship by pretending to be prospective partners. According to DOJ officials, scammers usually create fake online profiles on dating websites that include false personal details to lure victims to trust them. Once they’ve gained their trust, scammers will ask for money for things such as medical or business emergencies and travel.
It’s not just The Tinder Swindler. $547 million was lost to romance scams in 2021, up 80% from the prior year. Unfortunately, dating apps can’t guarantee that the person you’re messaging has your best interests in mind. So we talked to sex and relationships researcher Justin Lehmiller for tips on protecting yourself from scams when you’re looking for love.
Between Aug. 2015 and March 2020, multiple men used lottery scams, romance scams and other fraudulent means to get elderly victims to send money, gifts or provide personal details, according to officials.
The victims allegedly sent cash, money orders and checks through the mail, and by wire transfer, to various addresses in Connecticut.
Pierre is among the men accused of scamming individuals, and he lived with the other scammers in a New Haven residence. Pierre allegedly formed a fake charity called “Global Protection Foundation” and opened four bank accounts in its name.
The investigation revealed that more than 200 victims across the U.S. had more than $5 million taken from them, according to the DOJ. One Connecticut victim lost more than $1 million.
In February, Pierre and others were found guilty of multiple charges stemming from this scheme. Pierre was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering. He was released on a $100,000 bond and is required to report to prison by the end of August.
The scheme remains under investigation by state and federal officials.