Man Sentenced to 71 Months for Operating Lottery Scam that Defrauded Connecticut Victim of $1.2 Million
Leonard C Boyle, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that STIEVE FERNANDEZ, 35, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kari A. Dooley in Bridgeport to 71 months of imprisonment for operating lottery scams that defrauded victims of more than $1.8 million, including an elderly Connecticut victim who lost nearly $1.2 million.
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 Crooks and other co-conspirators. 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. Judge Dooley ordered Fernandez to pay restitution in that amount.
On October 16, 2018, a grand jury in New Haven returned an 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.
After Fernandez and his co-conspirators were charged in the case, further investigation revealed that Fernandez participated in similar lottery frauds against four additional victims, defrauding them of $684,500.
On February 3, 2021, Fernandez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Morris and Crooks pleaded guilty to the same charge. On June 28, 2021, Crooks was sentenced to 12 months and one day of imprisonment, and ordered to pay $1,196,207 in restitution. Morris awaits 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.
Acting U.S. Attorney Boyle 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).