‘Sweepstakes’ con artist steals hundreds of thousands from elderly

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A handful of people thought their lives were about to turn around after believing they hit the jackpot in a mail-in multi-million dollar sweepstakes. The offer seemed too good to be true–and it was.

A federal search warrant states the sweepstakes was ripping off a certain group of people, but experts said the scheme could easily trap anyone.

Con artists these days are pulling out all the stops to get your money. The feds said one suspected thief orchestrated a mail fraud scheme right here in Albuquerque.

According to a federal search warrant, victims from around the U.S. told investigators they thought they hit the jackpot after they got a piece of mail saying they won $20 to $25 million in a sweepstakes, but lady luck was not on their side. The victims told investigators they followed the sweepstakes’ instructions and sent back tens of thousands of dollars in order to get their millions.

“That’s the first warning sign, anytime anyone asks you to invest your hard-earned money into something, it’s most likely a scam,” said Beth Velasquez with AARP.

Their money was being traced by the feds back here to Albuquerque where the suspect would withdraw that money from banks around the metro. The ‘winners’ of these so-called sweepstakes never got what was promised, and instead, the search warrant states the suspect took more than $700,000.

“As time goes on, scammers are getting more and more sophisticated,” said Velasquez.

When investigators confronted the suspect, he told them the money was from “sponsors,” and that he doesn’t “get a penny out of it, not a cent.”

And the victims? All are elderly over the age of 80. “One of the reasons why they work so well is because they play on the emotions,” said Velasquez.

Velasquez said people of any age could fall into this trap, and to double-check if it’s legitimate. “Well, the main thing is to keep your wits about you,” said Velasquez.

KRQE News 13 will not name the suspect because formal charges have not been filed yet. The suspect told investigators when they did the search warrant at his home, he had $150,000 cash in his house.

The suspect could face mail fraud and money laundering, which could put him behind bars for 30 years.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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