Four suspects were recently arrested for their involvement in a scam targeting elderly women in Southern California. The scammers would approach older women claiming they needed help cashing what was presented as a winning lottery ticket. The victims were all Latina women and the four suspects conducted their scam mostly in Spanish.

The scammers asked the victims to call a phone number on the ticket for instructions. The phone number was part of the scam and a co-conspirator would pose as a lottery official telling the victim that the ticket holder had to put up a deposit to claim the winnings. The scammer would tell the victim that he or she didn’t have the required deposit and would suggest that the victim put up the deposit and then split the winnings. Of course, as soon as the gullible victim gave the scammer money or jewelry, the scammer fled.

The tactics used to lure these elderly women were, on occasion, appalling.  In one instance, a 76-year-old victim came upon one of the scammers sitting on the ground crying. When the concerned victim sought to comfort the scammer, she was told by the scammer that she had a lottery ticket with a large payout but because she was undocumented, she was unable to claim the winnings. The victim, after falling prey to the entire scam, provided the crying scammer with thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry.

The F.B.I. believes this scam has been in operation since 2017 and that there are other victims. Most of the scams took place in the Long Beach area. The four suspects have been charged in federal court with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They could each face prison sentences of up to 20 years. It is possible that state charges will be filed against the four suspects as well by the Los Angeles district attorney. Among the potential state charges are elder abuseand fraudcharges.

Fraud is a “white-collar crime” and considered a serious offense with a potential for harsh penalties, whether filed as a federal or a state crime. Here the suspects are also charged with a conspiracy to commit the fraud. This adds a layer to the charge, making the offense more serious. Even someone who does not directly commit the fraud but had conspired with others to concoct the fraud or assisted in some way, can be held to account on this charge as a conspirator and face the same penalties as a direct perpetrator.

Fraud crimes generally require that the prosecutor establish by the evidence that the accused deceived another person with the intent to cause a loss to that person. In the case of the lottery fraud, the federal charges require that the suspect devised a plan to commit a fraud by material misrepresentation with the intent to deceive or defraud the victim. The federal wire fraud charge also requires that this deception was advanced through the mail, over the phone or internet, or some other electronic communication.  In the lottery scam, the scheme involved calling a “lottery official” over the telephone.

Anyone charged with a fraud crime should enlist the immediate assistance of an attorney experienced in this complicated area of criminal law. The prosecutor must establish the requisite elements of the crime. Occasionally evidence of one or more of those elements is missing or weak, thus offering the defense an opportunity to argue for a dismissal or a reduced charge. In other instances, a skilled defense attorney might be able to argue for a lenient sentence or even probation and a fine.

Orange County criminal defense attorney has many years’ experience defending clients charged with fraud crimes. He will look at your case free of charge and advise you of your options. You may reach him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at