STAMFORD, Conn. — Police first became aware of a Stamford-based lottery scheme, which scammed people out of more than $165,000, in February when they received a call from a police chief in Wisconsin, Lt. Diedrich Hohn said Tuesday.
The Wisconsin police chief told Stamford investigators that a resident had sent money to Stamford as part of a scheme, Hohn said. Police tracked the money to Tiffany Midgette, 32, of Stamford, he said.
“It all blossomed from there,” Hohn said, adding that the Wisconsin victim had lost “a couple of thousand dollars.” Stamford police made seven arrests Monday in the case.
Investigators began following checks and money orders coming into Stamford and then going out to Costa Rica, where the ring leader is believed to be, he said.
Police believe the scheme worked this way: The suspects called people, telling them they had won a prize but needed to pay a tax or fee before collecting. Victims were told to send the money by using services such as Western Union or U.S. Postal Service money orders. If the victims sent money, they were often contacted again to send more because of an “issue,” which continued until the victims ran out of money or realized they were being scammed.
“If it’s too good to be true, it is,” Hohn said, warning people how to detect such schemes.
Since February, police believe 31 people have fallen victim to the scheme, with most victims between the ages of 80 and 90, a police statement said. Hohn believes the elderly are more susceptible to scams.
Police arrested Midgette; Kinika Harvey, 28, of Bridgeport; and Stephanie Handy, 25, of Stamford, who were charged with racketeering, money laundering, larceny, attempted larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny.
Also arrested were Kimberly Midgette, 31; Rannisha Fullmore, 27; Keneeta Washington, 30; and Aisha Jones, 27, all of Stamford, who were charged with money laundering, larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny.
Warrants have been issued for two others. One is believed to be in Virginia, and the other, the ring leader, in Costa Rica, the police statement said. Police were working to find the suspect in Virginia and hopes the other leaves Costa Rica for a place where the United States has an extradition agreement, Hohn said.