Pasco residents targets of new twist on lottery scheme
NEW PORT RICHEY - Thieves have added a twist in a scheme to get money form unsuspecting Pasco County victims – a Jamaican lottery. At least one person in Pasco County was victimized by a group telling people they won a Jamaican lottery called Mega Bucks. Potential victims are told to place money on a prepaid debit card and to then give the culprits the personal identification number or PIN. Once that happens, the suspects make off with the money and are not heard from again. “We’ve seen this as kind of a new morph to the scam,” Sgt. Justin Ross of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office said. “Previously, they would ask people to send money (by) Western Union and we would get out in the public and inform everybody don’t send anything Western Union to anybody you don’t know on the other end. So they’ve changed it a little bit to have the prepaid debit cards, hoping it’s not something they’ve heard of before.”The suspects have accents that reportedly range from Jamaican to Asian to Indian. The most recently reported scam took place April 16 and the victim was 86-year-old retiree Carl Schroeder. Schroeder was at his New Port Richey home when he received a call from a private number about 8 a.m. The caller had an accent and told Schroeder he was the winner of a Mega Bucks lottery, according to an incident report. All Schroeder had to do was place $4,000 on a prepaid debit card and call back with the PIN. Once that happened, Schroeder would allegedly receive a code allowing him to deposit $500,000 into his account. Schroeder’s neighbor, who was at his home at the time of the call, said Schroeder was promised a total of $7.5 million. The neighbor told deputies the caller was concerned she was there at the time of the call, the report said. The man on the other line called himself John Bella and said his attorney’s name was Shirley. The suspect also promised to give Schroeder a black Mercedes Benz once they met at a local Bank of America. Deputies met with Schroeder at the Bank of America. The suspect never showed up. “Unfortunately, they target the elderly who are a little bit more trusting and believing,” Ross said. “And when they get that phone call saying that they’ve won half a million dollars or millions of dollars, they’re hoping that it’s actually true.” At this point, investigators aren’t sure if the victims are being directly targeted or if the scammers are just going down a list of numbers until they get someone to participate in the scheme. A website, fraudwatchers.org, dates the scheme back to at least 2009. In March, at least two people in Pasco County were contacted by scammers urging potential victims to wire money to Puerto Rico. In those cases, the thieves claimed to be holding relatives hostage. If money wasn’t wired to Puerto Rico, then the family member allegedly being held would be killed. “If somebody’s calling you, telling you anything, whether you’ve won money or a grandson’s been arrested or somebody’s been injured and they need money, if it has anything to do with wiring money or going and buying a prepaid debit card, then it’s a scam,” Ross said. Detectives warn those who receive calls to collect as much information as possible, hang up, and then call the Pasco Sheriff’s Office with any information regarding the scheme. Those with information are urged to call (727) 844-7711 or visit www.pascosheriff.com and click the link at the top of the page to submit a tip.