Pittsburgh woman charged with bilking seniors out of $295,000 in Jamaican Lottery Scam

April 5, 2017 | Topic: Criminal

PITTSBURGH — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the arrest of a Pittsburgh woman on charges that she played a key role in bilking senior victims throughout the country out of $295,000 in a Jamaican Lottery Scam. The victims thought they were paying taxes on their winnings in the lottery; instead, their money was being routed to scam artists in Jamaica.

Agents from the Office of Attorney General’s Organized Crime Section, working with local police, today arrested Audrey Huff, 72, of the 300 block of Spencer Ave., and charged her with operating as the middle-woman — the Money Mule — in this version of the Jamaican Lottery Scam. Investigators charge that Huff collected and received money from elderly victims throughout the country through the mail, then made nearly 300 wire transfers totaling $295,000 to her co-conspirator scam artists in Jamaica.

“Audrey Huff was the Money Mule in this Jamaican Lottery Scam,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference in Brentwood today, shortly after Huff was arraigned on charges relating to the case. “She got the cash in the mail from elderly victims throughout the country. She knew this was a terrible scam. She broke the cash down into smaller amounts and wired it to her fellow scammers in Jamaica.”

Shapiro emphasized that local, state and federal investigators repeatedly warned Huff to not perpetuate or participate in the Jamaican Lottery Scam — and she continued in her course of criminal conduct, resulting in today’s arrest.

Shapiro explained the Jamaican Lottery Scam can take different forms. In one way, victims are told they’ve won the lottery and must send “taxes” to collect their winnings. In another version, scam artists are known to impersonate FBI agents to deceive victims into sending money. In another scam spinoff, they claim they’re IRS agents and the victims owe the IRS.

The victims in this case hailed from across the country. Here are their stories:

  • Victim 1: Maria Rizza, 90, of Brighton, Mass.

    In February 2017, Rizza sent $4,000 to Huff. This was a “tax payment on a $3.5 million lottery prize” which other suspects advised Rizza she had won. This package was intercepted by the U.S. Postal Service, which spoke to Rizza’s daughter — who told them her mother lost over $250,000 over 10 years to this scam.

  • Victim 2: Andrew Hutchinson, 82, of Mount Pleasant, S.C.

    In December 2015, Hutchinson was called by an alleged “FBI agent,” who told him there were discrepancies in his bank account and he had to mail $25,000 to Audrey Huff in Pittsburgh. This package was never recovered. Mr. Hutchinson’s funds were lost.

  • Victim 3: Marjorie Hanson, 96, of Prescott, Ariz.

    In August 2015, Hanson was told by a perpetrator to send $25,000 in cash to Audrey Huff in Pittsburgh. This package was intercepted by Prescott AZ police; the funds were returned to the victim.

  • Victim 4: Lynn Bernice Doolittle, 74, of Saint Paul, Minn.

    In September 2016, Doolittle was called by an alleged “FBI agent” who said her bank was being investigated and she needed to mail him all her money. Doolittle withdrew $32,874 and sent the money to Jennifer Lennox (an alias used by Huff) in Pittsburgh.

  • Victim 5: Norlito Soriano Sr., 77, of San Jose, Cal.

    In January 2017, Soriano sent $8,364 to Armie Corps (an alias used by Audrey Huff) at a Pittsburgh address. This package was intercepted by an OAG agent.

Huff was charged today with conspiracy to commit theft by deception, theft by deception, corrupt organization and criminal conspiracy. Bail was set at $5,000 unsecured and the defendant was committed for mental health evaluation. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 19th at 10 a.m. before District Justice Richard King.

Attorney General Shapiro praised the collaboration of the Office of Attorney General’s Organized Crime Section, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“This investigation is active and ongoing,” Shapiro said today at Brentwood Public Library Community Room. “If you know of a senior or loved one who’s been scammed, let us know. And if you’re called by an “IRS agent” or “FBI agent” or “Jamaican lottery official” – hang up the phone. It’s a scam.  Call us and we’ll go after these criminals wherever they are.”

People with tips can call investigators at 412-565-7680 or go online at www.attorneygeneral.gov. Huff will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney Generals Mark Serge and Katherine Wymard of the office’s Organized Crime Section.

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