Police charged seven women Monday with participating in a large, Stamford-based lottery scam that duped at least 31 elderly people nationwide out of more than $150,000 by falsely telling them they won prizes, but needed to pay a fee to collect.
Money from the scam was funneled to Costa Rica, to which the operation's ringleader had been deported, Stamford Police Lt. Diedrich Hohn said. Police have an arrest warrant for the former Stamford resident -- not identified -- as well as another suspect living in Virginia, he said.
Victims, all between 80 and 90 years old, were reached by telephone or mail and informed they had won a prize, police said. They were then told to send money via Western Union or U.S. Postal Service money orders. Those who did were asked to send more, which they did until they ran out of funds or realized they had been scammed, police said.
A probe of the scheme by police investigators Michael Stempien and John Russell began Feb. 27, Hohn said. "We got a call from an investigator in Fall River, Wis., who had some people who got scammed in his jurisdiction and was tracking a number of people in our area," he said.
Search warrants served on homes and bank accounts led to the nine, said Hohn, who declined to elaborate on the investigation. "Once things began unraveling, one name led to another. I can't get into details," he said.
Arrested on Monday were Tiffany Midgette, 32, of 47 Congress St.; Stephanie Handy, 35, of 220 Ludlow St.; Kimberly Midgette, 31, of 50 Courtland Ave.; Rannisha Fullmore, 27, of 34 Clarement St.; Keneeta Washington, 30, of 41 Ursula Place; and Aisha Jones, 27, of 98 Horton St., as well as Kinika Harvey, 28, of 129 Marion St., Bridgeport.
They all were charged with first- and second-degree larceny, third-degree money laundering, conspiracy and attempted second-degree larceny. Tiffany Midgette, Harvey and Handy are also charged with two counts of racketeering.
Each was held on bonds ranging from $20,000 to $150,000 for arraignment at state Superior Court in Stamford on Tuesday.
Police said they believe they have identified all the victims of the scam.
"As far as our investigation goes, I think we have everybody. I'd be surprised if there are any more," Hohn said.
Tiffany and Kimberly Midgette are the sisters of Waterbury resident Corey Craig Midgette, 37, who is charged with robbing the Citizens Bank branch on Atlantic Street on Aug. 31; he has pleaded not guilty.