United States Attorney Leonard C Boyle, Inspector in Charge Ketty Larco-Ward of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division, and J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, today announced that a federal jury in Bridgeport has found three men guilty of offenses related to their participation in lottery and romance scams that defrauded primarily elderly victims across the country of millions of dollars.
Yesterday, after a week-long trial before U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill, FAROUQ FASASI, 27, RODNEY THOMAS, JR., 31, and RALPH PIERRE, 32, all formerly of New Haven, were convicted of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering offenses.
According to the evidence presented during the trial, in a lottery scam, 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, once 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.
Between approximately August 2015 and March 2020, Fasasi, Thomas 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.
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. 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 investigation revealed that these scams defrauded more than 200 victims across the U.S. of more than $5 million. Many of the victims were elderly and vulnerable, and some victims lost their life savings. One Connecticut victim lost more than $1 million.
The jury found Fasasi and Thomas guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of mail fraud. Fasasi was also found guilty of three counts of money laundering. Pierre was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering. Judge Underhill scheduled sentencing for May 10.
Three other individuals have been charged and convicted of offenses stemming from their participation in this scheme.
“The Justice Department is committed to rooting out and prosecuting those who steal from seniors and other vulnerable victims,” said U.S. Attorney Boyle. “These verdicts will help to heal the many individuals who gave thousands of dollars to these predators. I encourage all to resist falling victim to these schemes and not send any money to anyone you haven’t met in person. Instead, call your local police department, or 833-FRAUD-11, for assistance and to report these crimes.”
“The verdicts exemplify the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s dedication to protecting those who have been victimized by scams that utilize the U. S. Mail to perpetuate fraud,” said Ketty Larco-Ward, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division. “The financial loss suffered by some of our most vulnerable population is devastating, often unrecoverable. The teamwork exhibited between multiple federal law enforcement agencies ensured the success of this investigation.”
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), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 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