A man pleaded guilty in Bridgeport on Wednesday to a conspiracy charge stemming from a lottery scam that defrauded an elderly Connecticut victim of nearly $1.2 million.
The announcement was made by US Attorney for the District of CT John Durham, and Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the FBI David Sundberg.
Stieve Fernandez, 35, pleaded guilty before US District Judge Kari Dooley
In a lottery scam, a perpetrator fraudulently convinces a victim that the victim has won a lottery or sweepstakes, and needs to make certain payments before collecting the winnings.
According to court documents and statements made in court, between approximately 2015 to 2018, Fernandez and others, including Minique Morris and Horace Crooks, defrauded an elderly Mystic resident in a lottery scam. As part of their scheme, Fernandez spoke to the victim on the telephone and used various pseudonyms, including “Damian Jackson,” “Jesse Jackson,” and “Huckleberry Finn.” During the phone calls, Fernandez falsely claimed that the victim had won a lottery or sweepstakes and was required to pay fees purportedly to cover taxes, insurance, handling and other charges related to the winnings. Fernandez directed the victim to pay fees in various ways, including by mailing checks and money orders to Morris in Brampton, Ontario, and Crooks in Orlando, Florida; wiring funds to bank accounts controlled by Morris and Crooks; and purchasing and sending precious metals products to Morris and Crooks. Fernandez instructed his co-conspirators how to transfer or deliver the fraud proceeds to him in Argentina or Jamaica, where Fernandez resided.
Through this scheme, the victim was defrauded of $1,196,207.
On October 16, 2018, a grand jury in New Haven returned a 10-count indictment charging Fernandez, Morris and Crooks with conspiracy and fraud offenses. Fernandez was arrested in Jamaica on May 9, 2019, and was subsequently extradited to the United States. He has been detained since his arrest.
Fernandez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years. Judge Dooley scheduled sentencing for April 29, 2019.
Morris and Crooks previously pleaded guilty to the same charge and await sentencing.
This investigation has been conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service’s Jamaica Foreign Field Office, the Jamaica Lottery Scam Task Force, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Francis.
U.S. Attorney Durham thanked the Justice Department’s Fraud Section for its assistance in this case, and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the Jamaican Ministry of Justice for coordinating the extradition proceedings in this matter.
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).