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Miramar Police: Elderly Couple Falls Victim To Jamaican Lottery Scam

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MIRAMAR (CBSMiami) – Miramar police say the Jamaican lottery scam has claimed two more victims.

Det. Mark Moretti says an elderly couple in New York lost more than $40,000 to a woman in the city after they were promised they’d won $2 1/2 million and a brand new car.

Moretti says investigators watched as Vennesa Hawkins received several packages at a home in a gated community over the past few weeks. Inside those packages were thousands in cash, checks and Apple electronics from an elderly couple in New York who thought they had won a multimillion-dollar lottery and brand new car.

Moretti says the victims were told by the scammer that they needed to send those items to pay the taxes on their prizes.

“They’ll contact you and say, ‘Oh you won a prize but you have to pay for it upfront,'” Moretti explained. “No company does that. That right there is the red flag.”

Moretti said some of the phone numbers used to contact the victims in New York were based in Jamaica and that the scammers are skilled and prey on the elderly.

“They’re very persistent,” Moretti said. “They’re very quick. And they know how to manipulate and control people.”

CBS4 spoke on the phone with one of the victims who said the perpetrators of the scam robbed them of their sense of security.

“It has affected my life by making me nervous every time the phone rings,” the victim, who asked not to be identified, said.

The victim said she sent the items to the Miramar home because she was told she won a Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstake and they often enter those contests.

“We order magazines and things from them and we enter the things that they send,” she said.

But police say it was all a ruse and the couple lost more than $40,000.

The victim has some advice for people who get calls about prizes and other offers that sound too good to be true.

“Say thank you and hang up the phone,” she said, adding that people should never send items to people they don’t know and they shouldn’t take out cash advances on a credit card to pay for these types of prizes, which is what she did.

Det. Morretti says he’s not sure who was making the calls to the victims, but he says Hawkins was the one receiving the packages and cashing the checks.

He does believe Hawkins has additional victims out there and he is planning to pursue additional charges against her.

The arrest report in the case says Hawkins told police that the items she received were for her brother in Jamaica.

Moretti says when they searched Hawkins’ home they found evidence of identity theft.

“We took out other items of fraud,” Moretti said. “We took out counterfeit credit cards and counterfeit driver’s license.”

Police showed CBS4 surveillance pictures of Hawkins at a store trying to use some of those counterfeit cards, but Moretti says they were declined.

The detective says he arrested a woman in a similar, unrelated case a few months ago.

In that case, Moretti says, Ashley-Ann Frazer laundered $250,000 from victims of the Jamaican lottery scam through a Miramar bank. The victims in that case were from Texas, California, Hawaii and a state in the Midwest.

Moretti says these are not victimless crimes.

“The one from Hawaii was on a fixed income and she gave them everything she had,” Moretti said.

This scheme is prevalent. According to news reports in Jamaica, Last week a Jamaican judge ordered 8 people extradited to the U.S. for charges of bilking more than 80 Americans out of at least $5 1/2 million.

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