Five Men Indicted after Schemes Defrauded Elderly and other Vulnerable Victims of More Than $4 Million
United States Attorney John H. Durham, Inspector in Charge Joseph W. Cronin of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division and J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, today announced that, on March 11, 2020, a federal grand jury in New Haven returned an 11-count indictment charging the following individuals with offenses stemming from their alleged participation in lottery and romance scams that defrauded primarily elderly victims across the country of millions of dollars:
FAROUQ FASASI, 25, a citizen of Nigeria and a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. residing in New Haven
RODNEY THOMAS, JR., 29, of New Haven
MONTRELL DOBBS, JR., 27, recently of Ansonia, Hamden and New Haven
STANLEY PIERRE, 32, of Bridgeport
RALPH PIERRE, 30, of New Haven
Fasasi, Thomas, Dobbs and Ralph Pierre were arrested yesterday. They appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Spector in New Haven and entered pleas of not guilty to the charges. Fasasi, Thomas and Ralph Pierre are currently detained, and Dobbs is released on bond. Stanley Pierre is being sought by law enforcement.
As alleged the indictment, 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.
The indictment alleges that, since August 2015, Fasasi, Thomas and their co-conspirators have 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 their associates, including Dobbs, Stanley Pierre and Ralph Pierre, retained a portion of the fraudulently obtained money and passed the rest to others. In addition, Fasasi, Thomas, Dobbs, Stanley Pierre and Ralph Pierre participated in a conspiracy to commit money laundering with the proceeds from the victims.
It is alleged that members of the conspiracy defrauded numerous victims across the U.S. of more than $4 million. One Connecticut victim lost more than $1 million.
“The financial victimization of seniors is as reprehensible as it is cruel, and the Justice Department has made it a priority to root out those who commit these crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Durham. “Numerous victims in this scheme gave thousands of dollars to these alleged predators. I urge all to think twice, and then to think again, before providing any money to individuals who they have never met in person. As soon as you are asked for money, call your local police department, or 833-FRAUD-11, for assistance.”
“Scammers use promises of large financial gains or sometimes even romantic relationships to lure victims in, only to manipulate them into giving their life savings away,” said Inspector in Charge Joseph W. Cronin of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division. “They prey on those individuals who are more susceptible to falling for a phony promotion or offer, most times, our elder population. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to protecting our citizens and working hard to prevent more people from becoming further victimized by these types of schemes.”
“These charges demonstrate the commitment of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to investigate and bring to justice those that victimize the American taxpayer,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “These defendants are alleged to have engaged in schemes resulting in millions of dollars in fraud, often targeting the most vulnerable members of society. The success of this investigation is the result of a collaborative effort between multiple federal law enforcement agencies and the dedicated staff at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
The indictment charges Fasasi and Thomas with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and one count of mail fraud. Each of these charges carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years. All five of the defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, a charge that also carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. Fasasi, Dobbs, Stanley Pierre and Ralph Pierre are also charged with one or more counts of money laundering, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years on each count.
U.S. Attorney Durham stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department 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).
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. Attorney Heather L. Cherry.