FBI: Perps used fake sweepstakes to cheat elderly out of $695,000

hamptons tax fraud

An FBI investigation uncovered a sweepstakes scheme that allegedly cheated seven elderly victims out of $695,000, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

The U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn charged three people with mail and wire fraud and conspiracy.

Prosecutors say the perps told their victims, in calls or letters, to say they had received huge winnings in a sweepstakes -- as much as $3.5 million. They asked for money via check or wire transfer to cover taxes and fees. The defendants sometimes said the sweepstakes was run by the federal government.

Of course, there was no sweepstakes. Just three alleged wrongdoers on the other end ready to steal their victims' money.

The box office and bank accounts used in the scheme were based in the Hamptons and Manhattan in New York, the government said.

The money was "withdrawn as cash" or "used to pay for personal expenses such as airline tickets," the government said.

"As alleged, the defendants took advantage of seniors by claiming they had literally hit the jackpot by winning a cash prize, often as much as $3.5 million," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez said in a statement. "The senior victims [never saw] the winnings they were promised."

The three defendants are between the ages of 47 and 51; one is in custody and two are at large.

Nest eggs are often the target of financial fraud, and the Justice Department estimates that millions of dollars are stolen from older adults every day. Suspected crime can be reported at StopFraud.gov.

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