A Manchester, CT man was sentenced on Monday to 168 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for his role in lottery and romance scams that defrauded primarily elderly victims across the country of millions of dollars.
Farouq Fasasi, 28, induced elderly victims to provide him with money, gifts and personal details.
According to the evidence presented during a trial in this matter, 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, 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.
Fasasi, Thomas, 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. Fasasi recruited others into the scheme, including those who served as “money mules.”
These individuals used personal bank accounts, and also established and used bank accounts in the names of businesses and charitable organizations, to launder money obtained from fraud victims.
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.
Judge Underhill ordered Fasasi to pay restitution in the amount $5,946,371.58.
“This is an appropriate sentence for a financial predator who made his money by systematically and cruelly victimizing seniors and other vulnerable individuals,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery. “The Justice Department has made it a priority to investigate and prosecute those who commit these crimes. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be falling victim to one of these schemes, I encourage you to call your local police department or 833-FRAUD-11 for assistance.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has a long and proud history of protecting the United States mail from criminal attack,” said Inspector in Charge Ketty Larco-Ward of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division. “This defendant took advantage of one of our most vulnerable populations, senior citizens. As long as we have criminals with such disregard for the law, Postal Inspectors will continue to focus their efforts on the protection of the American public. I fully commend the hard work and countless hours put forth by all of the law enforcement agencies involved, which resulted in bringing this case to justice.”
On February 15, 2022, Fasasi and Thomas were found guilty of multiple charges stemming from this scheme. Thomas awaits sentencing.
Four other individuals have been charged and convicted of offenses stemming from their participation in this scheme.
Fasasi, who is released on a $200,000 bond, is required to report to prison on September 21.
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.